A CASTLEDERG man working at the forefront of the coronavirus pandemic in north England says he and his NHS colleagues are braced for the immensely difficult days that lie ahead.
Luke McMenamin is an anesthetics registrar currently working in the Intensive Care Unit at Hull University Teaching Hospital.
A former head boy at Omagh Christian Brothers' Grammar School, the Derg man and his colleagues have been working at an "eye-watering speed" in recent weeks to expand capacity ahead of the anticipated surge in COVID-19 patients.
"Over the past few weeks myself and a few of my colleagues have been tasked with training people in safe intubation of COVID-19 patients, proning (placing intubated and ventilated patients on their front to help improve ventilation) and recapping some basic intensive care tricks of the trade.
"It's been busy, the enthusiasm is incredible and the spirit of the NHS is overwhelming," he said.
"Within days we have expanded our intensive care capacity at an eye-watering speed. Things that would normally take weeks, now take hours to turn around.
"We're currently bracing ourselves for when the system is truly tested. The intensive care cases are slowly creeping up in the north of England...but we're ready."
Despite the intensity of the pandemic, Dr McMenamin says health staff are ensuring that patients, unable to have loved ones by their bedside, are never alone.
"Not having the patients' relatives at the bedside for some of the most testing times in their lives is horrible for everyone involved.
"Rest assured they're never alone in the good or bad times, they may even be fortunate to listen to a 'Derg' man tell a tale or two for company," he said.
In a message to those here back home, he urged: "Stay at home if you can. Look after yourself and your family, appreciate the simple things in life.
"Pray for those who have gone and most importantly cherish their memories."