Top snooker referee Olivier Marteel has joined the health heroes on the coronavirus front line and is using scuba diver masks in a bid to fill the void left by lack of equipment.
Marteel, who took charge of the 2015 World Championship final, combines his sporting duties with working as a radiology nurse in Belgium.
The 50-year-old would normally have been at the Crucible this week before the tournament was postponed due to the pandemic.
But instead Marteel finds himself in A&E at the AZ West Hospital in Veurne after volunteering to assist in the crisis.
He said: “When the virus because widespread, each hospital created an extra Accident and Emergency department.
“So there was one for Covid patients and one for everything else. My head nurse asked me if I could work on the Covid A&E department.
“Normally I would have been in Sheffield, so this fortnight was clear in my diary. When I was asked to take on this role, I didn’t even have one second of doubt.
“Ever since I was a young child I wanted to work in medicine and I have been working for 28 years. So when this came up, I jumped at it, even if there are some risks.
“It is tough of course. Just as you do in the UK, we have problems here getting enough personal protective equipment.
“This weekend we started using scuba diver masks which were bought in a sports shop, because we don’t have enough of the correct masks.
“The worst thing is the heat. The body produces a lot of heat but it can’t escape from the costume.
“I am often wearing two pairs of gloves – one for the whole day and another pair when I am treating patients. By the end of the day my hands feel like gum.
“I am working on triage so I am the first person that patients see when they come in. My job is to assess them , check their symptoms, find out if others in their family have been ill.
“Then I decide whether they need to be tested for Covid or to see a doctor. So I am seeing a lot of patients every day.
“To some extent it is basic nursing because I am judging the symptoms.And I am used to being on the front line because in radiology I do X-Rays and CT scans which show whether cancer is growing.
“I have always said that refereeing is a piece of cake compared to my main job. I treat snooker like a job as well of course, but for me it is a holiday. And that will never feel more true than when I’m back at a tournament – before long I hope.”
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