Family Image copyright Katie Partridge
Image caption Elliott (left) is now 18 months old and sister Emelia is almost five

A physiotherapist working with Covid-19 patients has spoken of her “mum guilt” and hopes one day her children will understand why she is not always home.

Mum-of-two Katie Partridge works 12.5-hour days at Basildon Hospital on both intensive care and recovery wards.

She said her children are asleep when she leaves and in bed when she returns.

“They know mummy is helping people but I am torn when I see other mums doing amazing things – yet I feel pure joy when a patient recovers,” she said.

“I hope my kids will understand it one day and be proud of their mum – and know that I wasn’t home with them because I was helping people who needed me.”

The 31-year-old is a respiratory team lead at the Essex hospital and mother to Emelia, who will be five in August, and 18-month-old Elliott.

Image copyright Katie Partridge
Image caption Katie Partridge (right, in black mask) and members of the hospital Covid-19 care team
Image copyright Katie Partridge
Image caption Katie Partridge (rear) with fellow physiotherapist Michelle Wilkinson

After maternity leave she returned to work part-time, but that changed in mid-March as the coronavirus pandemic took hold, and she has been working four shifts in every seven days.

The long commute from Colchester means her children usually do not see her at all on those days.

“It’s hard – my husband’s doing an amazing job but I feel ‘mum guilt’ – I think that’s the best way to describe it – because I haven’t been there,” Mrs Partridge said.

Image copyright Katie Partridge
Image caption Mrs Partridge said husband Stephen Winkworth is doing amazingly while she is at work
Image copyright Louise Evans
Image caption Emelia knows her mum is looking after sick people, but does not fully understand, Mrs Partridge said

“One day my daughter said to me, ‘Mummy have we really got you for the whole day?’.

“Emelia started school [on Monday] and I had been trying to homeschool her, but I didn’t want our days together to be all about saying ‘you must do this or that’.

“I think my husband put it best, when he said talking about this sort of thing is good if it helps just one other key worker to realise so many of us feel this way.”

Image copyright Katie Partridge
Image caption Mrs Partridge said she hopes her children will be proud of what she has been doing

Mrs Partridge said the long shifts were tiring and she often felt unable to “switch off”, knowing what her team was going through at work.

“It’s a hard place to be. I envy people who can switch off – I can’t.”

However, she is immensely proud of the work she and her colleagues are doing.

“The most rewarding part is seeing the transformation as people leave intensive care and move to the ward – it’s absolutely amazing,” she added.