Life on the Covid front line as a hospital porter

By Rachel Stonehouse and Ben Mundy
Newsbeat reporters

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"I normally rack up about 23,000 to 30,000 steps on an average day."

That's what 25-year-old hospital porter Joe Albro tells Newsbeat about his work during the pandemic.

Joe works on the front line at Harrogate District Hospital and is speaking to the BBC on a round while collecting samples from different wards.

"I like to think of porter as short for transporter - as a lot of what we can do is moving stuff from A to B.

"We take patients, blood, swabs and all the essentials from one part of the hospital to another."

'I have to keep mum safe too'

He has been working as a porter since July 2019, when his fiancee (who also works at the hospital, in HR) saw the job advertised.

Little did either of them know just over six months into the role, he'd be working on the front line of a pandemic.

"The job was already busy, but when Covid happened it got crazy.

"The second wave has been manic… you can work non-stop some days - walking everywhere and pushing stuff around. It is exhausting.

"It doesn't worry me working here, especially as we've got all the correct PPE."

image captionRadio 1 Newsbeat spent two days inside Harrogate District Hospital

But the job has made it difficult for Joe to see vulnerable family members.

"My family think it's good I'm helping out. My mum has multiple sclerosis so I guess I always grew up caring for people."

But it's also meant he hasn't been able to see her much since the start of the pandemic.

"Ultimately I have to think about keeping mum safe."

media captionLife on the Covid front line

'Dementia is the hardest part'

Joe says people don't always see what goes on "behind the curtain" in places like hospitals.

"People appreciate the NHS - but people don't really think about the porters," he says.

"Some people think all we do is collect specimens but there's also the not-so-pleasant side to the job."

When he started the job, he expected collecting bodies would be the worst part, but the reality was very different.

"But personally the thing I struggle with the most is when I go onto a ward and someone is suffering with dementia - they are scared and shouting for help."

"There'll be someone else there to help them, but as a porter you just have to ignore it and naturally you want to help."

Joe says to keep himself going he uses humour, and tries to keep a positive outlook.

Beaming from behind his mask he tells us: "You just always have to try and look on the bright side, and know that patients are in the best place they can be."

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