Protection – Massive Attack
I have spent the last couple of months feeling like I’m in the eye of the storm; trying to make the best of my situation and be a positive presence for my family. I had decided that going back to work is not a reasonable prospect, and that I need to focus on my mental outlook, facing down the demons in my mind which constantly question whether or not I am being productive. While life for everyone else continued as normal, that was quite a challenge – Marisa and the boys coming into the house after work/school and me having little to show for my day. But… I have been making quite a good job of the adjustment, I think. And anyway, the whole issue has now been overtaken by events.
We escaped to the sun (Lanzarote) for a week in Feb, which was wonderful. Though our plans for Easter (Mexico and Belize) have collapsed. If ever you wanted evidence of why its wise to live for today, consider our snatched holiday to Namibia last summer. An opportunity that had a very narrow window and which we could easily not have grabbed. So glad we did. And who is worrying, now, about money spent in the past?
There is good news on my health. My light chains unexpectedly dropped from 250 to 160 last week (and the κ/λ ratio from 100 to 60). And rather than the prospect that each month’s appointment could hail the start of new treatment, we’ve moved on to less frequent visits to the clinic, and an assumption that my disease might be in abeyance for, if we’re lucky, a couple of years. Of course, this could change as soon as my next blood test. No one knows why my numbers moved, or what it really means. But welcome news is welcome news.
So, as covid strikes, I consider myself very lucky indeed. One year ago I was in and out of hospital several times a week for transfusions. Two years ago, I was sufficiently weak that flu almost finished me off. Now, I think I am much more robust. However, I can’t be complacent. Public Health England’s current advice (as at 17 March), puts me in their category of “people at even higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19”, and advises me to apply “rigorous” social distancing. My medics are reasonably hopeful about my current immune function, but have warned me that my diminished lung capacity (due to my busted skeleton) means that I’m certainly more vulnerable than I would otherwise be. So, reluctantly, I’m going to put myself – and the family with me – into a practical (not obsessive) degree of self isolation, as far as possible, from this weekend. We’ve already warned the kids that, even if the schools are still open by Monday, we will be taking them out. I have not enjoyed telling them that they may be unable to see friends/ girlfriends for months.
To be honest, though, my nurse told me today that they don’t believe it is achievable for many of us to actually avoid covid – we’re probably going to get it. What we do need to do is avoid all getting it at once.
In some ways, I’m well prepared for pandemic life. I’m used to living with no confidence about what tomorrow may bring. I’m used to periods of isolation. I’m used to listening to medical advice regardless of how I subjectively feel. I reliably wash my hands. Maybe I will find it easier to adapt than you will?
I’m very worried for my fellow mmers. As I walk round the park I look up at the hospital windows, behind which I know there are some very vulnerable people who will not survive if covid gets into their wards. And I’m worried for all my medics – who are exposed to risk by the nature of their work.
Right now, this feels like the apocalypse, and I am fearful for all of us. Not everyone grasps the severity of the situation and people will put themselves – and others – at risk by failing to adopt responsible behaviour. A death rate of 1% somehow doesn’t sound so high. But that’s not the risk. The risk is that something like 20% of covid infections require hospital treatment, and if everyone is ill at once, the hospitals will fail. I have relied, for many years, on my confidence that, whatever happens to me, I can scurry down to Kings where they will look after me. None of us can have that confidence, at the moment. According to the BBC the mortality rate in Italy is currently running near 8% – and the difference must be, in large part, that many people who might have survived had they received first class hospital care, were unable to access it. That’s the risk we all face, and no-one should underestimate it.
Beyond the immediate, the impact is unimaginable. Already I know many people, in very different situations, whose livelihoods are drying up – people being laid off, or simply not given any more work. Others being told they must accept dramatic pay cuts. After I post this, I must go down to the community centre where my last task, before going in to isolation, is to tell our users, and staff, that we must close. None of us can know what the future holds. Our household is already making a big adjustment to lost income, and how we will budget and balance our books in the months ahead. I’m conscious we have a lot more fat to live off than many.
Let’s hope my worst fears aren’t realised, that the plague passes over us in a matter of months rather than longer, and that the economy is revivable on the other side. (If I were in government I’d be applying a helicopter-money or a “universal basic income” policy already. The longer those in power fail to do so, the more unnecessary suffering will accompany the unavoidable suffering.)
So… massive love to you all. Don’t fret about me – I think I’m as well placed as most to cope and survive. Spare a thought for those in more vulnerable positions. Be a good neighbour. Do you know who, on your street, will be isolated and alone? And what are you going to do to support them? And most important of all – the mantra that has kept me alive for many years now:
Do what the doctors tell you to do.
Do what the Chief Medical Officer tells you to do.
Don’t let complacency and disbelief make you a risk to yourself or those around you.
Look after yourselves. Look after each other. And don’t forget to wash your hands.