In this series of articles we meet, recognise and celebrate some of the many members of the hockey community – administrators, officials, players – who are at the frontline in the fight to contain and stop Corona Virus. Our ‘Excellent Eight’ featured in this series represent the thousands of people from the European hockey family putting themselves and their health on the line at this unprecedented time.
Kateřina Huptychová is a well-known face on the European hockey circuit. As a hockey player and EHF judge from the Czech Republic, Kateřina is an energetic, determined and approachable character. These are just three of the many qualities that also make her the ideal person to be on the front-line in the global fight against COVID-19.
It is Kateřina’s job to assess the state of patients in the waiting room as they arrive to see the doctor. As people are brought in, often stressed and fearful, she will greet and calm them before checking their contact details, capturing vital signs, take blood samples, obtain ECG (electrocardiogram) readings if necessary and apply injections and vaccinations. in short, it is her task to prepare the patient to see the doctor.
While this has always been part of her work, Kateřina says her daily routine has changed beyond all recognition in the past few weeks. Since the middle of March, the Czech Republic has been in lock-down, with most shops, services, restaurants, pubs, bars, banks, insurance companies and other businesses shut and the majority of people working from home.
The majority of patients with non-COVID-19 illnesses are now being diagnosed and treated remotely – by phone mainly. Kateřina is one of the people who help out with these phone calls, listening to the patients, asking questions, preparing prescriptions, emailing to arrange further tests and x-rays and offering a sympathetic voice. “We rarely see a patient now,” she says. “One reason for this is that we do not have enough protective aids to work properly. We hope that patients will keep this attitude [staying away from the doctor’s surgery] until it is safe again.”
One thing that really irritates Kateřina is the amount of ‘hoax news’ that circulates. “Even as a nurse, or health service employee, it is difficult to divide all the information from media, to keep up with all of it and especially eliminate hoax (fake) news.
“During the first week of the crisis I felt vulnerable and stressed but now we get almost daily information from Ministry of Health, Chamber of Medical Doctors, Chamber of Practitioners and we feel more secure about informing the patients. We also know when to do distant or close work with the patients. We have protective glasses, facial masks, cotton coats (three per week) and gloves.”
With a weary voice, she adds: “Politicians are trying to look capable on TV and to look as if they are getting everything right but they are far from superheroes.”
To enable Kateřina to work the long hours necessary at the moment, her family are all helping out and supporting. She has two young sons – Viktor and Oskar – and their father works from home and looks after them while Kateřina is working. Her boyfriend looks after the hard-working nurse by ensuring food is on the table and all the household tasks are done. She adds, with sadness, that her own parents cannot be involved in any way because of the risk to their own health. They are, however, hard at work during self-isolation, making face masks.
“The most challenging thing is to try to convince people, not by arguing but by making a persuasive point, that it is important to behave like you are already infected. If you do not behave responsibly and follow guidelines then you may spread the invisible killer around you.”
Despite the bleak times in which we are all currently living, Kateřina remains upbeat: “The bright side of being tired and suffering from a lack of sleep are the many messages from family and friends from all over the world and the hope that everything comes to an end. We all have to learn from our mistakes. But we must be optimistic, patient, tolerant, careful and appreciative of your surrounding. When much of the population is infected, then collective immunity will start to work and everything return to as it was before. The virus will probably never disappear but we will be able to live beside one another again.”