Not to brag, but my biggest, (only), talent is being good in a crisis. I’m like a plump 40-year-old cynically anxious scout. I imagine the worst case scenario for everything and get prepared as much as possible – my handbags are always stocked like I’m venturing out into the wilderness with Ray Mears instead of to the shops. I hope for the best, but expect the worst – I pay attention during the emergency briefing on airplanes, and make enough eye contact with the air stewards that they either think I’m the wannabe hero who’ll help get people safe, or the person who’ll need plenty of wine and chocolate to get through the flight. (Plot twist – I’m both).
So, in mid-March Pandemic Fret hits everyone, everywhere. My husband is in the medically vulnerable group, and as an added bonus we are both living in a very ageing caravan on a building site while we attempt to take the top prize for longest house build ever. My biggest priority was ensuring he was safe, so we thought we’d just hunker down, try to keep the family business running and get through it. I was going to try and learn how to bake! Probably not, let’s be honest here, but I had organised a decent delivery of wine and nibbles to keep us both happy, so there’s that.
If you had told me 56 days ago that I’d still be waiting to get back on my feet, I’d have said “NOPE, I’ll be swanning about feeling fabulous in summer dresses enjoying the daylight thankyouverymuch”. Yet here I am in sunny June, with every curtain closed on my second round of antibiotics to kick pneumonia into touch, feeling absolutely shattered and wanting so badly to give my daddy a big hug that even typing it makes me weep.
On April 18 I felt “off”. Somewhat heavy, sluggish – I took my temperature and while not horrifically high at 38.5, with a global pandemic knocking on your door you follow the rules and monitor yourself until you can laugh it off. Our guidelines here in Northern Ireland told us to isolate – not to phone a GP or go to a hospital unless it was an emergency. To stay home no matter what. So I did.
A few weeks of fever, aches, and a tight chest led to higher temperatures, scary nights, breathless days and grim thoughts. My temperature crept up, and while some days I would start to feel a turn, there would come a stretch in which I couldn’t do much but stare at our dog and envelope myself in self-pity.
There have been exactly three days in which I woke up with a fresh brain and the ability to walk and talk at the same time.
I waited too long to speak to a doctor, of course. I followed the rules of staying inside and isolating myself and didn’t hassle anyone until I was worried my brain might boil over and slip out of my ear. A prescription for antibiotics came, but after a week nothing changed so I was sent to our local Covid-19 hospital where they discovered pneumonia. I was told I had gone through the worst of it at home, however now another few weeks have passed and I’m on a second load of antibiotics because this thing is behaving like the cheese you forget to put back in the fridge on Christmas night – it’s lingering, and it stinks.
It must be said – my own GP, the receptionists in their surgery, the out of hours doctor over the phone, and the doctors and nurses in the hospital have all been incessantly kind and clear – at no time was I not shown extreme care and decency. I can only imagine what they all, day after day, have had to handle – they showed bravery in such an unknown time and continue to take risks for all of us today. I’m grateful beyond words.
There have been exactly three days in which I woke up with a fresh brain and the ability to walk and talk at the same time. It’s like a Sorkin show on our caravan deck, me wobbling about with the dog pottering up and down as he howls at whatever fox or bird dares scare him, while I make hilarious in-jokes about Life in General knowing my gorgeously daft hound definitely understands every word I say, and not just “FOOD”. I long for more days like those – this afternoon as I type this it seems far off.
The ‘good side’ of a global meltdown is that we see what we really need – how fast paced and angry everything was before lockdown, how ‘the norm’ can actually change. Kindness and empathy have needed to take over the world for a long time now. The Black Lives Matter movement is educating us all about the racism embedded within every country. Health systems have shown where they needed fortification. How important teachers and childcare providers are. Our leaders everywhere are showing how capable or useless they are – and from all this we gain the possibility of building a greater planet. It’s easy to lead with cynicism, but I’m channelling optimism from here on out. I’m going to try my best.
Maya Angelou said: “When you know better, do better”. May we all be open to such wisdom. I’ve been listening, I’ll do my part and I’ll be ready for better times ahead.
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