Lacrosse players doing ‘emotionally draining’ jobs need game to get elite status so they can train

It’s rare that you see sporting competitors from England, Scotland and Wales sitting together without a hint of rivalry. But Emma Adams, Ailsa Stott and Eleanor Gaastra know all too well from their lives on and off the lacrosse field that these are not ordinary times.

Stott is Scotland’s head coach after an illustrious playing career, Gaastra the Wales captain and Adams a senior England player. And they have all been working on the sharp end of fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

Stott and Gaastra are doctors, Adams is a police officer. The trio bond over a year they all describe as “emotionally draining” in which their sport was their escape.

They also want to break down national borders to ask the government and sports authorities to give lacrosse elite sport status. Without them, none of the three nations will be able to train together in the run-up to next year’s postponed World Championships in Maryland while in lockdown due to the sport being described as a “recreational sport”.

They are also speaking with a unified front about the limits of pay to play for your country. Gaastra, 32, an anesthesiologist working in the intensive care unit at Salisbury General Hospital, has been looking after some of the most vulnerable Covid-19 patients.

“We learned how to treat something that we hadn’t learned in medical school or seen before,” she says. “It’s not like other diseases. The way we treated patients actually changed week by week or month by month.

“What we are doing now is very different from what we were doing for these patients six months ago. The research takes place part-time.

“Working in the intensive care unit was full of ups and downs. Some of the patients with coronavirus have been in intensive care for many weeks, in some cases for many months. We felt we got to know them, especially since their families were not with them.

“We felt like critical care workers, we were the ones really caring about them from that human perspective. When some of our long-term patients left the ICU, we slapped them out of the ward; that was outstanding.”

Gaastra’s voice breaks as she explains that some of her patients have not recovered. “Obviously there have been some similar low lows. There was one case that hit me pretty hard,” she says.

“We had a patient who was with us for several weeks and he wasn’t that old – early middle age. And he died suddenly on one of my shifts. As his family hadn’t seen him in weeks, it was truly heartbreaking to break this news to the family. I won’t forget that.”

Although the conversation is being conducted via Zoom, there are nods of understanding from Adams and Stott. Working as a GP has been tough for Stott, who gave birth to Jonah last month. Although she has become accustomed to virtual consultations, the hidden epidemic behind the pandemic has been the increase in patients with mental health problems.

“The main impact of Covid, as we have seen, is the mental health impact. I have also seen many patients with Covid but they are typically not as ill and are at the opposite end of the scale to what Eleanor sees, but what we see more is the significant mental health impact of social isolation ,” She says.

“It’s a bit emotional doing these consultations back-to-back. They’re often quite long, you can’t just give someone five or ten minutes, you have to give people the time they need and you take care of their worries and burdens – that’s how the counseling process works.

“It’s difficult to talk to many worried, anxious, or even suicidal patients, much more so than I would have in the past.”

Adams has had her share of harrowing experiences in the police force and also points to the mental health crisis. The 25-year-old says: “We had to cope with a lot more suicides. For me it has been a massive learning curve about the lack of mental health support across England.

“One job that really impressed me was dealing with a woman who said she wanted to end her own life and that she had four very young children. She was only 23 years old herself. This was a situation I’ve never been in before, trying to convince someone to stay alive for their children. Eventually she got the help she needed, there was a win in that situation, but it wasn’t always the case.

“That was the most emotionally draining part of the job for me. I can switch off, but there are things that you can’t leave behind after work.” Lacrosse players doing ‘emotionally draining’ jobs need game to get elite status so they can train

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