By no means am I an expert, or do I claim to be in a position to offer advice or information, so please do not take anything I say as gospel. There is a lot of misinformation and scaremongering going on, so this is my disclaimer; follow government and other official advice. This post is a personal view, and I am in no position of authority. My views are my own.
I have to say, when I planned on leaving hospital and my discharge drew near, I tried my best to run through many scenarios and plan for as many eventualities as possible. I thought about having to go into a care home, having to use swimming pools for showers, how i would get out and about without Sarah… One thing that I can categorically say did not cross my mind is a worldwide pandemic.
Covid-19, otherwise known as Coronavirus, cov-19, Wuhan flu, China flu or any number of other names is all that’s in the news at the moment. It’s more than a pandemic, it’s absolute pandemonium. There are bare shelves in shops, hour-long waits to simply get into supermarkets, and the one thing that is far too common at the moment is a sense of self preservation at the expense of all others. And if I’m honest, that scares me a hell of a lot more than the actual virus ever could.
At the time of writing, the official advice given states that if you are advised to get and offered a flu jab every year, you fall into the category of ‘at risk’ when it comes to this new virus. That means I fall into the ‘at risk’ category, and when you couple that with my reduced lung function, my reduced ability to effectively cough and my weakened immune system following months in hospital and recent infections, I think it is fair to say I am trying my best to take this situation seriously with a clear and level head. I do not buy into the panic, the scaremongering or the conspiracies, however I try to see the facts and I see this getting way worse before it gets any better. My reasoning for that is that we can look at how other countries who are ahead of us in their reaction to the virus, and they are all in a much worse place than we are currently. So, what exactly are the facts I hear nobody say because they are thrown at us in a way that makes us think we all understand but don’t? Well, this is how I see it.
There is a virus going around, which is much like seasonal flu or an Upper Respiratory Tract Infection, however there is no vaccination against it and currently no known cure for it. It also appears to be much more infectious than seasonal influenza. We as a country must therefore work together in order to protect the most vulnerable, such as those with preexisting respiratory conditions or cancer, and the way in which we can work together is by ‘social distancing’, or avoiding being together as much as is possible. The current evidence suggests that the virus is spread when people with the virus cough or sneeze, and the droplets from that cough or sneeze find their way into another person’s body, through mucous membranes in the mouth, nose and eyes. Therefore, by avoiding others wherever possible (social distancing) we can reduce the spread of the virus. The problem there is that it is not physically possible for everyone to isolate themselves from everyone else. We need to shop, we need to take care of others, the list goes on in ways that we cannot avoid being in close proximity to others. What is the point in this then? well, that is the ‘delay’ aspect of the government’s plan. by slowing the spread of the virus, it gives the health service chance to deal with all of the cases that need hospitalisation. Of all cases, approximately 5% are critical and therefore require hospitalisation. So, with the UK population being around 66 million, that means 3300000 people are going to require hospitalisation if everyone in the UK catches it. Now that is clearly a very dramatic number, but to keep it as simple as possible in my head that is how I see it. That number, 3.3 million, is simply far too much for our amazing NHS to deal with at once. So, by socially distancing and slowing the spread, we have a steady stream of people becoming unwell rather than everyone at once. This also means that those in hospital already have a chance to improve and be discharged, thus freeing up beds.
This is the exact reason we all need to work together. These are unprecedented times that we live in, and we are making history as we speak. We are all socially responsible to play our part, and I for one really do believe that we can do it. Obviously I’m not thrilled about it, but that doesn’t really matter. Personally I am avoiding large crowds wherever possible, making sure I and everyone who enters my home has good hand hygiene, and trying to remain as calm as possible. Sarah and I have not been ‘panic buying’, but we are being sensible in what we buy. There is no point filling up cupboards with food that goes off quickly, but at the same time we don’t need 20 KG of dried pasta sat there. I see this as being a delicate balancing act, matching purchases with what we actually need and not going overboard. At the same time, the media-induced mass hysteria makes that near impossible, as the few people buying up trolley loads of toilet roll leave nothing for the rest of us. If everyone simply bought what they needed and maybe a few extras, we could all slowly build up enough to last should shortages come to pass. I do believe that there may be supply problems; if truck drivers, warehouse workers, shop workers etc become unwell, then there could well be shortages. Having said that, it simply is something we will have to deal with. Look at generations before us; during wars, when there was nobody to do those jobs, everyone somehow managed, and we will manage this. It is is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence hopefully, and when it passes I want to be able to look back and say we did well.
The latest announcement from the Prime Minister is that all schools are to close from friday, except for those children whose parents are critical to the efforts and work in the NHS, emergency services etc. This is going to change things a great deal, however the basics will stay the same. As we go into this time, I’ll try and update everyone with activities and things we do with Amelia that fall into the ‘safe’ category. Obviously normal school holiday time activities are out as most are social, but we look forward to having so much time with her!
Overall, there are a few basic points to remember.
- Good hand hygiene is essential, so wash hands regularly with water and soap for at least 20 seconds with use of hand gel between washes
- Coughs and sneezes spread diseases has never been more accurate, so use a tissue wherever possible or cough into your elbow
- Avoid large crowds such as sporting events, arenas, busy shops etc
- Try to stay calm, even though it’s a scary time we are all in this together
- Try to remember those around that may suffer more; keep in touch with elderly neighbours and relatives, especially if they can use technology such as facetime, Skype etc.
Mental health is going to be a huge thing to try and manage throughout this whole experience. With being in such close proximity to others we live with for an extended time, tensions can run high. There is no shame in finding things difficult, so remember to talk!
Another thing to remember is all the things that can still be done. Board games with the family, gardening, going for a walk, finishing those odd jobs around the house… there are so many things we can all do, and make the most of this time. There are community groups popping up all over facebook offering ideas and assistance where possible, and I would love it if anyone who read this could benefit (or help) in any way. Community spirit has been seen all over the world recently, most notably the singing from balconies in Italy. Let’s all make the most of this, and show that no matter what we value each other.
On a final note, this blog is very personal; it may be on the internet and an open read, but it’s like my personal diary. I write what I think and press post. I don’t mean to come across as telling anyone what to do, so please don’t think I am. Being in a chair means that I can’t be as helpful to my community as I would like to be, so this is my way of doing my bit and spreading the message. If I can help anyone in any way, please get in touch. I’m always up for a chat, I have found some brilliant resources for young children, and I am in touch with many people in the local community (Teesside) that I can put you in touch with as needed.
Thank you to everyone who reads and supports me; it honestly means the world. This is hard, and will only get harder, but we will thrive again. Peace and love to all.