It’s the COVID 19 Lockdown Blues
100 Days of Lockdown
Anyone remember Brexit?
Oh how the world has changed in the 4 months since Carol and I got back from out sun soaked and gin soaked holiday in the Canaries. Arriving back to find that buying a toilet roll was worthy of a post on Social Media was a bit of a shock. Initially the impact of COVID 19 wasn’t really felt at home, but slowly we became aware that this wasn’t just a case of a bad dose of the flu. Nev and I were still going out for our two walks a day, ramping up somewhere around 13,000 steps whilst we were at it. We were dropping into Mad Hatters morning and afternoon for our coffee and ear rubs, it was Nev getting the ear rubs, I wasn’t that lucky. Then they went to takeaway only, then came the lock down. Nev couldn’t understand why we walked past the closed up shop, so we changed our afternoon walk to avoid the shop.
Having all bar food shops closed didn’t really impact us that much either. Food was still available if you queued, the one walk a day was ok as the weather was decent and Nev could play in the garden. The combination of Chemo which shags your immunity and being a neck breather meant I needed to keep a low profile for a while. I was still taking Nev out for an hour a day as Carol was working and it wasn’t fair to keep him indoors, but we’d go out early and avoid any form of contact with other people. A bit like a normal day for me J
Who’d have thought that all this would come around just because Mrs Lau of Wuhan went to the market and thought “Hmmm, what to have for dinner tonight? Wow, that bat looks good.”
Carol has worked all the way through at the hospital, luckily after being asked to go front line her managers decided that the risk was too high so she was initially working at maintaining the CPAP machines that are vital in the treatment of Covid patients. As a highly quailed Respiratory Staff Nurse Carol’s experience is vital to the NHS in the current crisis. She’s working long hours, making sure she gets changed out of her scrubs before she comes home and is taking emails from colleagues into the evening. Way beyond the call, but exactly what you’d expect from someone with 40 years experience of the NHS. Now that things are slightly more normal she’s back doing what she knows best, treating patients with respiratory problems.
I actually think that we were in a pretty good position. We had food in the fridge, wine in the garage and we’ve still got each other to talk to. Max has been Southampton with Laura for the duration. Anna and Tom were due to come down to us for Easter, but obviously stayed in Leeds. I really felt for anyone who was living by themselves with no open space of their own. I had real moments of going “Stir Crazy” but I could always step into the garden, take in some fresh air and throw a ball in the vague hope that Nev will bring it back again. I’ve really missed the rugby club, the photography involved and the people involved too. It will be back, eventually. To take my mind off the rugby I’ve been photographing the Red Kites, flowers and food, shows how desperate I’d become J
My biggest worry about lockdown was what would happen if my valve started to leak. Sure enough on Good Friday the first small leak started and by Easter Monday it was like a sieve. I mailed the Speech and Language team on Tuesday and was advised that my Therapist would call me on Thursday to discuss the options. By Thursday the leak was as bad as it’s ever been. I couldn’t get any fluid down without coughing heavily. I’d been given a valve plug to use for these situations and by lunchtimes I’ve had to use the plug to be able to eat and drink. The downside to the plug is that whilst it’s in place I can’t make any voice at all. My Therapist called late on Thursday evening, I’d got the plug in so Carol had to take the call. It wasn’t good news. Valve changes now need to be done by a qualified member of the ENT staff, wearing full protective gear as the process will usually involve me coughing up gunk whilst they poke around. It looked like the earliest date would have been in another two weeks from the phone call, a total of three weeks of leaking. By far the longest period since I became a Lary. The other bad news is that if the valve was to fail completely then the current advice is to remove it and let the tract heal over. That would mean no voice at all until such time as safe surgery can be carried out, sometime in the future.
Whilst the leak continued and fluid was getting into my lungs there was more of a chance of developing a chest infection along with a temperature, neither of which I wanted as that will delay the replacement of the valve even further. It was quite a difficult balancing act as I understand fully the pressures the NHS are under and perhaps the ability to talk isn’t top of the priorities list. We’re all going through a pile of pooh at the moment, hopefully once this is over, and it won’t be anytime soon, the world will be a better place.
In the end it was a further five weeks until the valve was eventually changed. Five weeks of coughing and spluttering before plugging around lunchtime and being silent for the rest of the day. That was really the lowest time of Lockdown. Whilst all this was going on I was also advised by the hospital that my scheduled follow up appointment in July was being cancelled and wouldn’t be being rescheduled. I was really shocked by this news. In effect my reviews were being pulled after only 2 ½ years of the scheduled five years. I was low due to the leaking valve and felt that I was being cast adrift by the NHS that had looked after me so well. I tweeted about the issue and was contacted by my mate Victoria Derbyshire from the BBC asking if I’d take part in a Skype interview the next day to highlight the issue of treatments being binned on the back of COVID 19. Of course I agreed as Victoria has been great with me over the times I’ve been on her show. The next day I was on BBC2 live from about 10.30am for around 10 minutes discussing what it’s like to have your voice taken away and to feel like no one cared. Victoria’s advice was to keep shouting, loudly. So I did.
Eventually a date was agreed on for the valve to be changed. I turned up at the hospital and was directed to a distant part of the ENT Dept. where Caroline and an unknown Dr. were waiting for me. Both fully PPE’d up with masks, air and full length rubber capes, I’m sure I’ve seen that video J The process took about 10 minutes and I was on my way, no longer Leaky McLeak Face. To add to my admiration of our NHS my CNS contacted me after Carol had emailed her to say how upset I was being binned from reviews without any consultation as to how I was feeling. She told me that it was a plan that was being discussed going forward post COVID but she wasn’t aware that letter had been sent out to patients. The long and short is that a telephone consultation was booked in for yesterday. The call went really well. We discussed my concerns as to the length of time that my last valve change had taken. I was pleased to hear that the Dept. is now more geared up to getting procedures completed in a more timely manner, however as the valve change has high risk of airborne transmission of COVID, precautions need to be taken to prevent the risk to both the SALT Team and me. We discussed my concerns over my Lymphoma which has massively increased since my appointments at Sue Ryder had to be binned. I’ve tried the massage myself, as has Carol, but not being trained in drainage means we’re only scratching the surface. There’s no real answer to this problem as Lymphoma massages are likely to be right at the bottom of the pile of treatment that will be reintroduced. Finally, we talked about the letter I’d received cancelling my future consultations. The Dr. confirmed that the letters should never have been sent out in the first instance and that it was really a knee jerk reaction to COVID. I’ve agreed to go onto what’s known as Patient Initiated Follow Up. So, if I feel I need to see a Consultant I contact my CNS and they’ll arrange and appointment. Three years in and I know my body pretty well. The yardstick is if I feel there’s a problem for more than 10 days then I should yell…………. LOUDLY! I can expect a call in the next few days about some specific issues I questioned, ‘tis Saul Goodman.
Is It Contagious? https://www.facebook.com/iicOscar/
On the subject of cancer treatments and the effect COVID has had on them, for a while now I’ve been following the progress of Oscar on the Is it Contagious FB page. Oscar is a teenager who was diagnosed with cancer when he was 10 years old. The first thing he asked his consultant when he was given the news was “Is it contagious?” In the past five years Oscar has undergone many treatments, including various doses of Chemo which have taken away his hair, but not his smile. His latest Chemo took place during lockdown which was difficult for Oscar and his loving family. Whilst the Chemo had the effect of slowing down “Beastie” as he calls his cancer, it didn’t take it away. The only option left was very invasive surgery which Oscar underwent on 23rd June. It’s still very early days, but the news coming out of the hospital daily is for far more upsides against the odd downside. All to be expected for the surgery performed. Before being diagnosed Oscar was a member at Chipping Norton RFC and his whole family are big fans of the game. Rams RFC kindly sent Oscar a hoodie to wear, apparently the surgeons had to remove the hoodie as well as “Beastie” as it’s hardly been off his back. I hope that when Oscar is well enough, and rugby returns that we can welcome him and his family to OBR for lunch and one of the 1st XV Matches #Ramily.
I was thinking today of all the words and phrases that are now in everyday use, that weren’t in March :
· Lockdown (Usually used in the hope of the pub staying open)
· Key Worker (Hmmm)
· Face Masks (Usually used by bank robbers or swingers!)
· One way systems (You’ve got to hope that a lot of the people in shops don’t have driving licenses)
· Daily Briefing (Gave up after a week or so as the Journalists were too interested in scoring points)
· Social Distancing. (Similar to One Way Systems in that a lot of people don’t understand what it means)
· COVID Hair Style (Invested in clippers, No.1 all over)
· Air Bridges (Nope, not a clue)
· R Rate (A friend of R Kelly perhaps?)
· Prof Chris Whitty (A true hero!)
· Clapping for Carers (Did the job)
· Zoom (I thought this was 1980s song by Fat Larry’s band – no relation to Leaking Larys Band)
· New Normal (I wasn’t sure what the old one was)
· Second Spike (Henderson or Chandler?)
On the subject of Zoom, I’d never heard of it prior to Lock Down, but it became a staple of the weekly diet for a while. It was a great way of keeping in contact with the kids whilst we weren’t able to travel. I also used it for weekly chats with guys from the rugby club that I’ve known for a while. An hour or so of chit chat would break up to week. I was often in a position where I had no idea what day of the week it was, let alone what month! Tuesday Zoom calls were a godsend. I even took part in a couple of Zoom’s whilst I had no voice, going through a pack of Post It notes both times J
Slowly but surely the lock down is easing, I’ve managed to have a few socially distanced walks along the banks of the Thames with Jools, Annie and Shaun, not forgetting Remy and Monty who kept Nev company. Also a pleasant ramble in the woods with Mr Cook and two bottles of Doombar! Friends have come round for Socially Distanced drinks and nibbles in the garden and we’ve returned the favour. Max has been home a couple of times for Socially Distanced lunches in the garden.
Business’s and shops are beginning to open up. Mad Hatters now opens from 8.30am to 2pm six days a week. It’s still takeaway only, but it’s lovely to wander in most mornings with Nev and to get our coffee whilst having a chat. Places like The Caversham Butchers have been open for the duration, supplying superb meat, pastries and pies, delivering where necessary. Anna sent me a pack from the butchers for Fathers Day, darn it was good!
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
At the time of publishing we’re a day away from the latest lifting of the Lock Down. As of Saturday Bars, Pubs, Restaurants and other establishments can open up with strict guidelines to follow. Hotels and holiday lets can reopen, again under strict guidelines. Following the scenes from some beaches over the lockdown period when the weather has been good I’m quite pleased that the forecast isn’t great for this weekend. A slow return to the new normal would be better I think than a headlong rush into 10 pints and a curry. I’m in no rush to get back to a pub, but am really missing restaurants, especially Nino’s. I hope that the predicted “Second Spike” isn’t as vicious as the newspapers are speculating it'll be, however with the English population’s ability to be total and utter selfish twats I’m not too hopeful. The economy is going to take a real battering for many years to come to pay for the effects of COVID. I’m close to the end of my working life, but I feel so sorry for the kids who’ll be paying probably for the rest of their lives. On the subject of jobs, I was originally planning on looking for some sort of employment again once we’d got back from the Canaries, COVID put paid to that whilst I was having to be careful. I’m still classed as at risk purely down to the Chemo and RT, but I need to find something to bring in a few quid and to alleviate the boredom that can arrive. Carol leaves for work at around 7.30am and is rarely home before 6pm. That’s a long time to be by yourself. I really think I’d have gone totally nuts if it hadn’t been for Neville and his company, even Penny has started to be a bit more sociable.
This Saturday we’ll be going up to OBR for a Socially Distanced pint and to see loads of friends who’ve we’ve missed so much since February. I’ve had to set the postcode into the Sat Nav as it’s so long since I’ve been there, probably the longest break in 17 years. Then on Sunday we’re driving up to Cambridge to Carol sisters (Evil Twin from those who remember the early blogs), Anna is driving down from Leeds to meet half way. Nev is very likely to wet himself in delight at seeing Helen, Stuart and Anna again J Tom is staying up in God Own County as he’s got work over the weekend, a sign perhaps of more normality as he works in advertising.
Way before we’d heard of COVID I’d promised the kids that we’d all go down to Cornwall together at some point this year. I really didn’t think it would happen, but with the lifting of Lock Down I’ve managed to book a six berth caravan in St Merryn for the first week of September. We’re probably not going to go into Padstow as the streets are so narrow, but we will walk on the beaches, we will walk along the cliffs, we will have the odd pub meal and we’re booked into Rick’s for lunch, hopefully with a medium sized dog with us too. The only thing we’ll take away will be memories, the only this we’ll leave behind will be foot prints. The people of Cornwall are rightly nervous about the return of tourists, we can only hope that by September the tourists will have remembered how to be tourists. Please let the weather be decent, as six of us and a medium sized dog stuck in the caravan could be interesting if it chucks it down sideways. I’ve spoken to Kate who does the guided photography walks and we’ll meet up at some point that week for me to gain some more insight into landscape photography.
As always, thanks for reading.
(Probably) to be continued………#Shoulder2Shoulder