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Testing Times by Gary Thapa, Clwb Triathlon Cerist | Profi’r Pandemig gan Gary Thapa, Clwb Triathlon Cerist

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As well as being a Level 2 Triathlon Coach and Cerist committee member, I’m also a Biomedical Scientist working for Public Health Wales Microbiology Aberystwyth in Bronglais Hospital.

Juggling work with training, coaching and a busy family life has always been a challenge, especially as I also do on-call which means nights and weekend working too. Thankfully, my colleagues are great with on-call swaps, usually to free up the Tuesdays for the swim session, Wednesdays for the run or swapping weekend days for races! My trail running wife Claire is also very understanding, and we would often cover each other when the kids were younger so we could both get a run or bike ride in!

When COVID first appeared in late 2019 we could never have imagined how it would affect all our lives, even in the labs where we get the latest information about emerging infectious diseases.  Other threats such as Swine Flu and Avian Flu had come and gone relatively quickly in recent years, but this time it was different; it soon became apparent that we were dealing with something a lot more difficult to contain, and we were about to become part of the front line in the UK’s response to COVID, along with many other NHS staff and other sectors.

We use molecular methods to detect COVID-19, a process known as Polymerase Chain Reaction (or PCR for short) that can detect minute traces of the virus from nose or throat swabs. In Aberystwyth, we went from being unable to test for COVID at all in the early days to now having four different molecular platforms and doing all the testing for the area.

As you can imagine, our workload has gone through the roof and having to learn so many new technologies and methods in double-quick time, whilst doing all the usual work and still maintaining the highest quality standards, has been difficult. We’ve never been so busy, but we’ve risen to the challenge and now we are reporting hundreds of COVID results a week! We still have long hours and staff shortages, but our small team is coping well and I am very proud of the essential work we are doing.

Through all of this, I’ve tried to keep training. I feel very lucky that I’ve been able to go out to work each day unlike so many people stuck at home, but regular training has been a real lifeline to help me cope with the stresses of work and the crazy lockdown situation we find ourselves in. Keeping to some sort of routine when you’d rather just crash out on the sofa hasn’t been easy, but I’ve somehow found the strength to get out there – usually with a friendly kick from Claire! I’ve probably done more running miles than ever in the last year, long hilly trail runs around Machynlleth are my go-to activity, and I try to get out on the bike sometimes too. In the grand scheme of things, when so many lives have been lost and badly affected by this pandemic it may seem frivolous to think about triathlon, but to me, it’s more important than ever to look after our physical and mental wellbeing. I know many others have continued to train, or have taken up running, cycling or open water swimming in the last year and that’s so great to see!

When the first lockdown eased it was amazing to get back poolside to coach again, even if the COVID risk assessments were challenging. It’s a shame we had to stop again so quickly, but hopefully, things will start to get back to normal soon and we can resume club sessions and racing triathlon again safely. Meanwhile, I’ll just keep doing my job and squeezing in the training where I can!

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Ynghyd â bod yn Hyfforddwr Triathlon Lefel 2 ac yn aelod o bwyllgor Cerist, rydw i hefyd yn Wyddonydd Biofeddygol yn gweithio i Uned Microbioleg Iechyd Cyhoeddus Cymru Aberystwyth yn Ysbyty Bronglais.

Mae jyglo gwaith gydag ymarfer, hyfforddi a bywyd teuluol prysur wastad wedi bod yn her, yn enwedig gan fo mod ar alw, sy’n golygu gweithio fin nos ac ar benwythnosau hefyd. Yn ffodus, mae fy nghydweithwyr yn wych gyda’u parodrwydd i newid diwrnodau ar alw, fel rheol i gadw nos Fawrth yn rhydd i’r sesiwn nofio, dydd Mercher i redeg neu newid dyddiau ar y penwythnosau i mi gael rasio! Dwi a fy ngwraig Claire, sydd ei hun yn rhedeg llwybrau, yn deall ein gilydd yn iawn hefyd, ac roeddem yn helpu’n gilydd i wneud yn siŵr bod y ddau ohonom yn cael rhedeg neu feicio!

Wrth i COVID ymddangos gyntaf ar ddiwedd 2019 fydden ni fyth wedi dychmygu sut y byddai’n effeithio ar ein bywydau i gyd, hyd yn oed yn y labordai lle rydym yn cael y wybodaeth ddiweddaraf am afiechydon heintus sy’n dod i’r golwg.  Roedd bygythiadau eraill fel y Ffliw Moch a’r Ffliw Adar wedi dod a mynd yn gymharol gyflym mewn blynyddoedd diweddar, ond roedd yn wahanol y tro yma; daeth i’r amlwg yn fuan ein bod yn delio â rhywbeth llawer anoddach i’w reoli, ac roeddem ar fin bod ar y rheng flaen i ymateb Prydain i COVID, ynghyd â nifer o staff eraill y GIG a sectorau eraill.

Rydym yn defnyddio dulliau moleciwlaidd i ganfod COVID-19, proses o’r enw Ymateb Cadwyn Polymerase (Polymerase Chain Reaction neu PCR) sy’n gallu canfod olion mân o’r firws o swabiau trwyn neu wddf. Yn Aberystwyth, fe aethom o fethu profi am COVID o gwbl yn y dyddiau cynnar i gael pedwar platfform moleciwlaidd gwahanol ac yn cynnal yr holl brofion ar gyfer yr ardal.

Fel y gallwch ddychmygu, mae’r llwyth gwaith wedi mynd trwy’r to, ac mae gorfod dysgu cymaint o dechnolegau a dulliau newydd yn gyflym, tra’n gwneud y gwaith arferol, a chynnal y safonau uchaf, wedi bod yn anodd. Dydyn ni erioed wedi bod mor brysur, ond rydym wedi ymateb i’r her, ac rydym bellach yn cynnal Cannoedd o brofion COVID bob wythnos! Mae’r oriau yn dal yn hir, ac rydym yn brin o staff, ond mae ein tîm bach yn ymdopi’n dda ac rydw i’n falch iawn o’r gwaith hanfodol rydym ni’n ei wneud.

Trwy hyn i gyd, rydw i wedi cadw i ymarfer. Rydw i’n teimlo’n ffodus fy mod yn dal i allu mynd allan i’r gwaith bob dydd tra bod llawer o bobl yn aros styc adref, ond mae ymarfer rheolaidd wedi bod yn hollbwysig i mi ddelio â straen y gwaith a’r sefyllfa clo wallgof rydyn ni’n rhan ohoni. Dydi cadw at ryw fath o rwtîn pan y byddai’n haws cwympo ar y soffa heb fod yn hawdd, ond rywsut rydw i wedi cael yr wmff i fynd allan – fel rheol gyda chic gyfeillgar gan Claire! Mae’n siŵr fy mod wedi rhedeg mwy o filltiroedd nag erioed yn y flwyddyn ddiwethaf. Rhedeg llwybrau mynyddig hir o amgylch Machynlleth fydda i fwyaf, ond rydw i’n trio mynd ar y beic weithiau hefyd. O edrych ar y darlun mawr, gyda chymaint o fywydau wedi’u colli a holl effeithiau’r pandemig, gall ymddangos yn rhyfedd i feddwl am driathlon, ond i mi, mae’n bwysicach nag erioed i ofalu am ein lles corfforol a meddyliol. Rydw i’n gwybod fod lawer o rai eraill sydd wedi parhau i ymarfer, neu wedi cychwyn rhedeg, beicio neu nofio mewn dŵr agored dros y flwyddyn ddiwethaf, sy’n beth gwych i’w weld!

Pan gafodd y cyfnod clo cyntaf ei lacio, roedd yn wych cael bod yn ôl wrth ymyl y pwll i hyfforddi eto, hyd yn oed os oedd yr asesiadau risg COVID yn her. Roedd yn siom i ni orfod rhoi’r gorau iddi eto mor fuan, ond gobeithio y daw pethau’n ôl i normal eto’n fuan, ac y gallwn ail-gychwyn ar sesiynau’r clwb a chymryd rhan mewn triathlon yn ddiogel eto. Yn y cyfamser, dwi am barhau i wneud fy ngwaith a gwasgu ambell sesiwn ymarfer i mewn fel y gallaf i!

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