For those of you that don’t know I’m a nurse; I have been for 17 years now, I’ve worked through all sorts; swine flu, major incidents, fires, shootings and stabbings. I thought COVID was going to be a little bumpy challenge in my working life.
At the beginning of the COVID outbreak I was working as normal; my role is to respond to sick or deteriorating patients- so pretty much high risk front line healthcare. I was seeing the sickest of the sick, those requiring respiratory support; whilst being intensely aware of the C word hanging in the air. I’d calmly, treat, swab, isolate and inform my patients when we thought COVID was a potential differential diagnosis.
March 22nd was my last clinical day; busy with training for COVID and busy with patients, lots that could potentially be C-19. I returned home; stressed, overwhelmed and a little worried. Getting mostly unchanged on the doorstep, shoes In a bag, clothes straight in the wash- shouting hello to a sleepy Dorothea and Daddy as I jumped in the shower before allowing myself contact with them.
On March 23rd I headed to Sainsbury’s for the weekly shop, queued up at 7am with all the NHS staff (some wearing masks and gloves), elderly shoppers getting irate at staff for not being able to join the NHS queue – I realised life was suddenly very different. It felt strange. I returned home to a letter.
A letter I hadn’t really given that much thought to. I knew as I had Rheumatoid Arthritis, and was only multiple treatments that suppressed my immune system, I was, In theory in the ‘at risk’ group for COVID- and I’d asked my boss for a risk assessment due to this. What I didn’t quite expect was to be one of those in the ‘vulnerable’ group; and that I’d have to stay at home for 12 weeks minimum! I called my boss and explained and she said she’d put me back in the rota from June 16th- it seemed such a long time.
Coming to terms with going from being a key worker, a helper, a hero – to being sat at home was vert challenging. Wracked with guilt that I have the skills to assist, that I should be helping the fight and supporting my colleagues- I felt useless sitting at home. My husband was relieved, he’d been worried about me, not wanting me to go into work- worried that I was going to become one of those patients I talk about taking to ITU.
You’d think being at home with my family constantly would be a dream; and in some ways it is; I’m loving time to cook, meals as a family and time to create fun activities for Dot. But the isolation is unreal; the last time I went anywhere was Sainsburys of March 23rd- since then just a few walks (which in accordance with my letter I shouldn’t be doing- more on that later), no contact with others apart from zoom and facetime- the monotony is unreal.
Its hard not to be lazy: somedays I can’t be bothered to get showered and out of my pjs. But then the next day I feel guilty for that so I have a day of constantly being busy, and not knowing where to stop! Getting the balance right in lockdown is so hard.
Luckily about a week into lockdown my workplace found me some tasks to do ‘working from home’ and I had a laptop delivered. This has been really good at helping me develop a diary routine, have some purpose and actually feel like I’m helping out. As it mostly involves interviewing, its also been great at giving me some social interaction, which is great. Its been great to join in with our teams weekly meeting via zoom too, and seeing the lovely familiar faces.
So, the letter. Its surprisingly how restricted and isolated they actually expect people to be- and its so easy to see how this can have massive impact on our physical and especially mental health. Vulnerable people like myself have been advised to stay at home for 12 weeks minimum; this includes not going out for walks/exercise- not even in your own garden. Also not to share a bathroom or bed with family and not to eat meals together. Obviously as a young family with a small house this is near on impossible- I honestly think I would have lost the plot if we couldn’t eat and watch movies together!
As myself and Daddy are having to both work from home we are actually spending time at opposite sides of the house for most of the day. I’m sitting in our upstairs lounge- which also contains Dorothea’s playroom, and Daddy is sitting in the downstairs dining/lounge, so we have a whole floor between us for most of the day. A much needed break and some degree of peace (for Daddy) which means when we meet for food, or a drink in the garden its really nice.
The social isolation is for me unreal, my husband often takes the mickey out of me for my constant need to be surrounded by people- but i’m just a sociable person. In my daily working life I communicate with 10’s of people each day, and on my days off I like to meet friends for coffee and cake, or take Dorothea to a farm park or children’s group. I going to have to find some coping strategies to help me get through the next 7 weeks.
I mostly feel thankful- thankful that I’m safe, having time with my family that I’ll never get again; like having 3 months of maternity leave , but with a toddler (less tea and cake and naps- more crafts and giggling). I’ve told my team that when I can safely return I’ll take the baton from them and they can have a break, I’ve also busy sourcing donations for our teams to enable their rest periods to be comfortable (refreshments and reading materials)
I’m going to try and write a couple more blogs about my time in isolation- let me know what you think.