We are two years into the world pandemic, and I feel pretty sure that we are all well and truly spent. Our liberty has been compromised, our actions curtailed, contact with friends and family impeded and, in some cases, we have been isolated in hospital while being treated either for the virus or another medical condition. I would never have predicted how this situation would play out if this hadn’t happened to me.
About three months ago I lost my footing on the spiral staircase at home. It was a simple error of trying to climb the stairs at speed while carrying something. My foot simply slipped of the carpet at the top of the stair and as I had my hands full, I could not grab the stair bannister. As I fell, I recall thinking
“This is going to hurt”
I wasn’t wrong but the fall was significant, and I must have fallen a good 4 metres to finally land inside my son’s bedroom with my head acting as a battering ram to gain access. I was out cold; my son was in shock and my husband was on to Triple 0 like the pro he was.
The ambulance arrived and after two hours they finally carted me away. I was still spark out!
I finally came too as they parked me in ED and I vaguely recall muttering and exchanging of details. The usual thing.
As the night unfolded and my consciousness returned, I was very disconcerted to realise that I was alone …. all alone. No husband to hold my hand, no mobile to make contact and worst of all no spectacles. I had no one to ask what was happening as the ED was manic, I couldn’t contact my family and from time to time they showed me stuff that I simply couldn’t read. I was totally isolated, and it wasn’t pleasant.
Following one or two procedures including a CT scan I was taken to the ward where finally, after 6 hours, I was able to talk to my husband. He has been frantically ringing the hospital for information all night and this was the first time he had got through. He was distressed and I wasn’t exactly having a ball. I mentioned how cut off I was and that I had no means of contacting anyone. That because of the specs issue I had no idea what was being presented to me or the results of any of the procedures. No one had time to explain.
After lunch (I use this term in its widest possible interpretation of what was delivered on a plate) I was allowed to go home. Husband had been told that I need clothes including shoes (he forgot those) and a hairbrush. I was given the contents of a Coles plastic bag with the goodies inside. I wish to state that we have at least 6 overnight bags but no he stuffed it all in a shopping bag. [ Slaps forehead with heel of hand]. I changed into a pair of pants two sizes too big, a shirt that had languished at the bottom of a drawer for the best part of a decade and no shoes. So, ambling out of the hospital in my bare feet and resplendent with a stonking black eye I shuffled into the car and went home.
The first thing on the list was to shower and clothes that fitted. I climbed the stairs with great care and my hand never left the rail for more than a millisecond. I dallied at the top of the stair to gaze down at amazement at the distance I travelled and the fact that I fractured nothing more than my pride. My son refers to me as Buzz after Buzz Lightyear. Remember he didn’t fly but as Woody said he “Fell with style”.
Three months on and I still feel the effects of the impact. The orbit of the eye remains tight and sore, and my vision is a bit wonky as I get tired. The Staircase is now referred to as “The Stairway to Heaven “as we have all fallen on them at least once and it’s only a matter of time before one of us heads to meet St Peter.
However, the trauma, the ambulance, the side effect to one side the thing that causes me the most distress was the 8 hours + of isolation. No contact with anyone except the masked face of the nurses and no way to communicate with my own. Not having the where with all to read my charts or the results because I was effectively blind. I was only in hospital for about 10 hours in total.
And this is the thing. When you are admitted with COVID to hospital all of this applies to you. No family, no contact unless facilitated by the staff and potentially no mobile or specs to get in contact. All those patients that were admitted with COVID into ICU are isolated and those that don’t recover are on that lonely island till their last breath. The patient is cut off and the medical staff can do nothing about it except a facetime call and final farewells. The staff must hate it, I would. Then there are the patients and their families and friends.
When I was a nurse in Edinburgh I used to trot around the ward/unit where I was working and spend time with patients who didn’t have visitors. Or simply sit with patients who were about to pass and had no one to hold their hand, so they had contact with another human. I did this countless times, and I can recall each and every one of those patients. No gloves, no masks or PPE. Just me and them and a warm touch.