From today (31st December), large areas of England move into tier 4 restrictions, which is pretty much lockdown. Covid-19 lockdowns, tiers and restrictions are hard. They have really taken their toll on everyone this year. Everyone wants to hug their parents and meet up with their friends. We all want holidays and day trips and normality. It can be tempting to break the rules.
But please remember what the rules are for!
(At this point I would like to say that I know the government has messed up many times. This isn’t a post about that. I will leave that to people who are far better with words. This is a post about personal responsibility and the reality of Covid-19.)
If you’re one of those people moaning about the restrictions on social media or breaking the rules and sharing the photos, I’m guessing you’ve never had a relative in hospital seriously ill (or worse) with Covid.
I have. And it’s possibly the hardest thing I’ve ever lived through.
Throughout this pandemic, we’ve always stayed positive and maintained that we were the lucky ones. But at the end of November, our luck ran out. My dad got Covid.
My dad didn’t break any rules. He was unfortunate enough to pick it up in hospital. Maybe the person he caught it from didn’t break the rules either. But you can bet that somewhere down the line there was someone who thought it was OK just to nip into a friend’s house for a hug or go out for drink with people they didn’t live with.
And my dad paid the price.
He very nearly paid the ultimate price.
My fit, healthy 75-year-old dad, who has done over 100 parkruns.
Covid-19 is an absolute rollercoaster. For the first three weeks of his illness he got a bit better and a bit worse. Every single day. As a family member, that is tough. It really takes its toll. And it is even harder on the person who is ill.
Every day, we were feeling fear, sadness and anger. Then there would be a little bit of happiness and hope, then it would all get dashed again as he got a little bit worse.
It was impossible to focus on anything. Every thought and action was overwhelmed with ‘My dad’s got Covid. My dad’s in hospital’. Nothing else was important.
To give you an idea of just how much of a rollercoaster it is – on the morning that my dad went on a ventilator, he called my mum to say he was feeling a bit better. He was on a new ward which was nicer than his old one and he’d had a good night’s sleep. We felt positive. Maybe he’d hit rock bottom and was on his way up?
No, he wasn’t. He was about to be put onto a ventilator.
My fit, healthy 75-year-old dad on a ventilator.
We know the ventilator is to save a person’s life, but we also know that many people who go on a ventilator don’t make it.
Can you imagine how that feels?
Unless you’ve been in that position, you probably can’t. I would have said I could imagine it before it happened.
But I couldn’t imagine just how awful it would feel.
Two weeks on from that day, it still feels awful just writing those words and reliving those feelings.
He’d been in hospital for two weeks and, although, we’d spoken to him on the phone every day, we hadn’t seen his face. Just before he was put on the ventilator, we were able to FaceTime him. He couldn’t speak because of his oxygen mask, but he could wave to us and we could talk to him.
It was a surreal experience and, at the back of our minds, we knew it could be the last time we saw him.
Stop there and think. Think about having to say goodbye to a loved one on FaceTime and not knowing if you will ever see them again. Is it really worth that family get together or that drink with your mates?
When he was on the ventilator, we were offered the chance to FaceTime him in the coma – just to look at him. We chose not to do this. We didn’t need to see him like that. Some families choose to say goodbye to a loved one like that. Can you imagine anything more heartbreaking?
Thankfully, my dad made it through. But the nightmare isn’t over yet.
He still has a very long road to recovery. He is recovering from a serious illness, which absolutely would have killed him without medical intervention. He would almost certainly have died long before he made it to the intensive care unit. He is also recovering from being on a ventilator, which is an extreme and invasive treatment. Despite being fit for his age, his age means the recovery will take much longer than it would for a younger person.
Talking of younger people, my dad encountered a lot of people in their 40s in the various Covid wards he passed through. Some of them were every bit as ill as my dad.
Some of them didn’t make it.
So if you’re tempted to go into your parents’ house and let your secondary aged kids hug their 70 or 80-something grandparents. Don’t.
Your parents might think it’s OK, that it’s worth it for a hug. It isn’t.
They might not be as lucky as my dad.
And is being in hospital for five weeks and ending up on a ventilator ‘lucky’?. No, it isn’t.
Lockdowns and tiers are isolating and I totally get that they have a huge impact on mental health and the economy. I also fully support single people being able to have a support bubble.
But for anyone else, ask yourself where you would rather be isolated. In your own home, with your own bed and home comforts and the ability to eat, drink, go to the bathroom and go to bed when you want? Or in a hospital ward, on oxygen and being pumped full of intravenous antibiotics and steroids, wondering if you will live or die?
I think we all know the answer to that question.