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Monday, 16 March 2020

Advised, kicking and screaming, to stay at home and self isolate for a week.


Bognor High Street
I have been advised to stay at home and self isolate. 

The Realisation

WTF was my first reaction.  It felt like a sledgehammer to crack a nut.  I was not actually dying so it felt drastic.  I was however, feeling quite poorly and part of me thought Oh good, I can go to bed and that will be very nice.  It had taken a few days to decide to ask for advice, because I had not got the symptoms that I thought I should have.  These are -

  • A fever
  • A cough
  • Difficulty breathing. 

I had the following

  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue

And so, I thought, nothing to do with me, mate.  Feeling ill in the past had never been a reason to stop doing anything.  There was always so much to do, and I could find pockets of time to rest.  I was hardly ever actually ill, just a bit unwell from time to time.   And as ever, I had a busy week ahead so crack on, I thought, crack on.

I have a client who is medically vulnerable.  This morning, Monday, I was to take this dear client to hospital for major surgery and to provide support and kindness.  I am very fond of this person and felt I was the only one who could provide this service, and yet, and yet, this person is frightened of the Corona virus and knows they are likely to die from it.  They have only one functioning lung, amongst other things.  

It isn't all about me after all
If I turn up early on Monday morning full of good intent, and pass on something that could be fatal as part of the package, how does that work?  In fact, not just this Corona virus but any virus will harm my client.  But as there is so much official information out there, and as this is a new evolving virus, there is no excuse for winging it and hoping it will all go away.  If I am infected, I hold a great deal of responsibility for other people.  It was because of this that I began to research more possible symptoms of the virus.  My symptoms now included a tight chest, a slight dry cough and aches and pains in my limbs. Here is what I read from the World Health Organisation website -

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually.


I read on the NHS website that if we suspect the virus, we must stay at home for seven days and self isolate. (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/)  Calling 111 is only if we are struggling, and 999 if we are really struggling.  I also read that most of  us,  80% of us, will recover without treatment and one in six will need real hospital help.  Many of us will not even know we have it.  And I read that non pharmaceutical intervention (NPI) applies to the treatment of Corona virus.  

The Dilemma of the individual

It boils down to this.  
  • I feel fine.  I have always carried on regardless, I am not ill enough to stop
  • Self isolation is inconvenient.  It is really going to mess up my week.
  • Who will believe me if I stay at home for a week?  Everyone will think I am a hypochondriac.
  • How real is this? Am I imagining it?
  • This virus will not harm me, I am healthy
  • My neighbour is elderly and it will harm her
  • My client is vulnerable and already frightened about surviving this virus.  It will harm them. 
  • I cannot tell who is vulnerable or not in the streets of Bognor.  If I am carrying the Corona virus, I cannot tell who will be in danger.  I cannot take the risk.
So it is not about me at all.  

It is not about my inconvenience, nor my health, nor my reputation suffering by cancelling things and not about me looking like a moaning minnie. 

It took me a few days to begin to cancel my plans for the next week.  I could not let go of how much was at stake for me, if I cancelled my Loss Conversations, my meetings and most of all, taking my client to hospital as I had promised. Much of the problem was embarrassment at looking like I was pretending to be ill.  I don't look ill, I was out and about a few days before my announcement, I could still walk then and no one could say that goodness, Antonia really needs to go and lie down and let go of that saintly suffering.  No one could go home and say, Antonia is hanging on by a thread, she needs a week of isolation.  

And so, after looking at the official websites and advice, and after speaking to medical friends and family, I made the announcement that I was self isolating, that I thought I had the Corona virus and that sorry, all next week is cancelled.  Phoning and messaging people I had been in contact with was not pleasant, but had to be done.  I had even hugged someone the day before my announcement, which in hindsight was a very silly thing to do.  We have been asked not to.  Am I above the official advice?  No.  I was not taking it seriously.  Now I needed to call this person and tell her.  The fact that most of us will get through this virus is not the point here, the real point is that I was not acting responsibly for the whole community.  She was really nice about it, though understandably worried. 

And now -

I am thinking about all that has happened.  I have had many messages asking if I had had a test, how did I know it was the virus, and what are the symptoms.  The underlying theme seems to be, what shall we do if we get it, and how will we know?  
Get a grip and self isolate.

The bigger picture seems to be one of fear of apocalypse.  The lack of control we have over this threat has made us take it very personally indeed and watch each other for signs that the other is being wilfully dangerous.  It has made many of us sink into tribal lizard brain survival mode where we see to our own needs over the bodies of everyone else.  You know what I mean.  It has made some of us suspicious and frightened, resentful and self righteous.  Some see conspiracy theories and make a point of ignoring all the advice and guidelines.  Some see everyone else as a potential threat and are angry and aggressive.  Most though, take the Corona virus seriously and follow official advice, but many are unsure of the details of it.  

Here is what I am thinking now as I sit in a blanket at home in isolation, on the laptop.  I do not feel well, but I do not feel my end is nigh. 

The virus needs to be taken seriously.  Take it seriously.  But do not panic.  The facts are that most of us will get through this with very little consequence.  We may feel ill, we may not. Some do not have any symptoms,  some just carry it.  People like me, who have not been tested, and who show all the relevant symptoms, will just have a bit of something or other and get over it.  And while we are not self isolating, we will continue to wash our hands and remember to sneeze in our elbows. 

The difficult bit is the isolation.  I am not used to sitting at home and giving in to an illness that does not incapacitate me.  I can easily get out there and go shopping, have a meeting, be a part of the community.  But this virus is different.  It is not about me, it is about all those people who cannot fight it like most of us can.  I am not isolated for my own good, but for the good of my client, who was taken to hospital by my colleague and friend.  Not me.  And for the benefit of my elderly neighbours, and for all the other people who have to care for others and cannot take time off like I can.  My isolation gives me time to think, to rest, to ponder and to answer questions about what is happening to me in this global pandemic. 

There are millions of me, sitting at home not too well and self isolating.  Millions of me will recover and life will continue.  There are some, not me, possibly not you, who will suffer badly from pneumonia and breathing problems.  The hospitals are preparing as best they can for that.  Some of us will die from this, like my client who will likely die if they get it.  Like my father, who will die if he gets it.  Like my other clients who are in lock down for their lives. 

Finally 

Here is what I did -  
  1. Eventually I paid attention to my symptoms.
  2. I weighed up what I wanted with what would be good for my clients.
  3. I read and researched the official websites and the links they provided.  My symptoms were likely to be Corona, and I was not nearly unwell enough to call 111 or 999.  
  4. I followed the NHS question and answer links and was told to self isolate.  I spoke to family and friends who are medics.  Their advice was always the same.  Get a grip and self isolate. 
  5. After feeling very put upon and extremely annoyed, I understood the bigger picture and realised that it was not about me at all
  6. I self isolated, cancelled everything, arranged for my clients to have other people to help.
  7. Now I feel poorly, virtuous and a bit silly.
  8. But my eyes are opened to how much responsibility we have for each other.  Just by self isolating, I am doing something for my local and global community.  
When I come out of this, I hope I am immune (I don't know yet).  Then I can get back out there, not spreading, not ill, full of the joys of Spring. Then I will be useful for the people who have to be careful, and I can go where other angels fear to tread.  (Sort of.)

 
Not how it actually is. 

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