If this is coronavirus it’s no fun

If this is coronavirus it’s no fun

It’s day 10 of feeling totally pole-axed.  I have never experienced such utter fatigue in my life before.  But of course they are not testing you, unless you are Prince Charles or some celebrity, so I don’t know if I have Covid-19 or not.  But I suspect I have.

It started with a cough and a relatively mild set of symptoms.  After a few days I started to feel aches in my joints and muscles and my temperature went up.  At that stage, though, I felt well enough to potter about the house, call friends and family, and do the ironing.

It was last Sunday when things turned for the worse with my temperature going up further, shivers, coughing, aches and dizziness.  But I don’t mean sick enough for me to go to hospital.  No, just to feel totally isolated from any kind of medical help because 111, whom we had phoned when David showed his first symptoms, told us just to stay at home.  Then when I tried to call just to check out my own worsening symptoms, I hung on for nearly 2 hours but gave up.  Our GP surgery just refers us to 111 so there is no back-up.  This leaves one feeling alone in more ways than one, with far less medical support than one would normally have.  I don’t envy those who have conditions that need attention.

But of course I see that it is those who have major breathing difficulties who must get priority.  The rest of us who are merely staggering from bed to bathroom with no energy even to even pick up the phone to a friend, must wait to get better.  Hopefully.  And I am one of the lucky ones as I have a doctor in the house.  He can’t cure my symptoms but he does a good job of bringing me soup and cups of tea. My heart goes out to those in the NHS caring for the critically sick.

What has been marvellous, though, has been the kindness and care of our sons.  We have six between us!  Every day there is a call asking for a progress report on our symptoms, how we are doing, whether we have enough food, whether we are going nuts yet.  As a parent it is such a special feeling to experience the tide turning as the young look after us and ensure our wellbeing.

When the self-isolation factor first started to hit home I felt incredibly sad.  My son called and I sobbed down the line about how much I would miss my lovely cosy times with them and with the grandchildren, the school runs, the bath times, the outings, the sleepovers.  Patiently and kindly he talked me through it “Mum we want you there for their 16th birthdays… this is just a few weeks.  Try to think long-term.”  It’s lovely to feel that they really don’t want us to peg out, even though several of my own generation feel we would sacrifice our own lives for the financial wellbeing of our offspring.

Atal Guwande in his book Being Mortal said that it helps to have daughters as one gets older.  I feel much comforted by the care our sons have shown us in these last few days, including delightful bouquets for Mother’s Day, dropping off soup and bread and tasty delights on our doorstep.  Daily calls and FaceTime with the children.  It’s like receiving a giant hug from both our families.

Neighbours also have been extraordinarily kind and generous.  Our immediate neighbour dropped off homemade pasta sauce, muffins and fruit, another friend some delicious cake, other friends ask frequently whether we need any provisions at the shops.  We are blessed to live in Layton Place where there is such a strong sense of community.

Luckily Ocado has delivered for us and will be doing so again this Friday.  Not sure how it will go after that as when they first started their online queuing system, I would find myself at the end of a queue of 6500 but when I looked today the queue was 27,500!  But hopefully some of those people who have been laid off in the hospitality industry can now be redeployed to help with deliveries.

It is those who live alone who most concern me.  It takes a lot of determination and creativity to amuse oneself and not allow spirits to drop into despondency and loneliness.  I hope friends and family will keep calling them as we are, indeed, so very unfamiliar with our own company in a world where we have been able to pop out for a coffee, a sandwich, a walk, a gallery, a movie… and now we have none of those things to call on.

I thought David and I might amuse ourselves with a jigsaw puzzle – little did I realize that most of the jigsaw puzzles on Amazon would already be sold out.  Great minds!  I just long to have enough energy even to do a bit of adult colouring.  Right now I can do nothing but sleep and cough.

The annoying thing is that I had just joined the Vitality Health policy which includes incentives to keep fit via points towards an Apple watch, special discounts at Virgin Active.  For the first time since we moved to Kew I was really enjoying going to Virgin Active in Chiswick Park and working out and swimming.  And now I am ill and can hardly move.  How frustrating.  However, as this bug removes all hint of an appetite then at least I should not be putting on weight.  Hopefully once it lifts David and I will be able to revert to some home exercising.

I may feel sorry for myself right now because I am ill but it is the young I really worry about.  Their careers and financial wellbeing have been thrown into complete disarray as the world comes to a halt.  Thank heaven for technology and all it can do to keep companies operational, for teams to continue to meet online and carry out their work remotely.   We shall need everyone to be ready to get up and running again once this period is over.

I wonder how my grandchildren will remember this time.  They are used to such an active life of friends and activities in comparison to our own childhood.  And I certainly don’t envy parents trying to encourage their children to sit down and home school.  What a task! 

We shall get through it all, no doubt, but there will be loss and tragedy in the midst of survival.  And we shall be changed at the end of it.  It makes our world even smaller and more integrated.  Now, as well as a butterfly flapping its wing in Brazil potentially causing a hurricane in Florida, we shall also have to watch out for unsavoury practices in any small market of the world and be aware that it could wipe us all out.  Each one of us as individuals holds a responsibility for the wellbeing of others throughout the world.  We shall, I think, learn more about global love, compassion and care, hopefully. And about grit and determination.  And probably creativity.  Keep well everyone.

  • Janice Benning on Mar 25, 2020 Reply

    Helen! As always a beautifully written piece – Sending you and David massive hugs and tons of get well soon messages x

    • Boudewijn Mohr on Mar 28, 2020 Reply

      Dear Helen
      Very sorry for you. Now that it’s three days since you wrote, I hope that progress is showing by now – with “a vengeance”.
      With best wishes for a speedy recovery.

  • Diane. on Mar 25, 2020 Reply

    Oh Helen
    I am so sorry that you feel so poorly. Sending you lots of love and healing thoughts xxx much love Xxx

  • Patrick McCarthy on Mar 25, 2020 Reply

    Dear Helen, all my sympathy!
    This is close to home.

    • Gina on Mar 25, 2020 Reply

      Dear Helen, I’m really sorry to hear that you and David have been so unwell. Please do phone me if I can be of any help to you both. Get well soon, Gina xx

    • Helen Whitten on Mar 25, 2020 Reply

      Thanks for everyone’s kind words. Keep well. Hx

  • Christopher Welford on Mar 25, 2020 Reply

    Hey – that sounds bloody rough. Given that you are feeling so dreadful, it’s a testament to your brilliant writing skills that this is such a good, if upsetting, read. Wishing you a speedy recovery. Chris x