April – Part Three

Before I move on to May I wanted to explain a little more of my feelings about lockdown and what it meant for me. A little background to explain why my garden became my whole world in such a short space of time. I’m a hypochondriac. Not in the clinical sense, it’s not a diagnosis I’ve ever been given. It’s just a convenient word to describe the way I feel about health and well being. I have more than the normal amount of concern about my own health and the health of my loved ones. I don’t pore over medical encyclopaedias. I try to avoid the NHS website (I try!). I don’t visit my doctor on a weekly basis complaining about every little ailment. But I do have a heightened panic response to anything that seems out of the norm for me, health wise. So as you can imagine the emergence of a pandemic, a highly effective virus, which disproportionately affects those with pre existing respiratory conditions set off a lot of alarm bells for me.

I have a long term chronic condition. I’m asthmatic. The very definition of a pre existing respiratory condition. I wasn’t diagnosed with asthma till I was in my early 40s. I’d been through several years of bouts of bronchitis, chest infections, and general breathing difficulties before I was diagnosed. It was a relief. This was something I could control. I take my steroids, I always have an inhaler, I try to avoid the things that trigger my asthma. Hayfever, common cold, major temperature changes, extreme laughing. Yes, you read that right. Extreme laughing can trigger an asthma attack for me. It’s not unusual apparently. But having a husband that makes me laugh, a lot, that can be risky! Luckily after a couple of near misses he knows when to dial it down before I have a full blown attack.

Anyway, back to the pandemic. Early reports of this disease were pretty vague but I live in Liverpool, near the Wirral Peninsula and back in February 2020 we were thrust into the limelight of this emerging crisis when the first people to be quarantined in the UK arrived from China and were housed at Arrowe Park Hospital. So it’s fair to say I was following the course of the pandemic’s arrival in the UK right from the very beginning. Those alarm bells were just tinkling quietly in the back of my mind early in February but as the cases started to rise around the UK and the confirmation that those with respiratory conditions were at higher risk than the average person they began to sound louder and louder to me.

By mid March every cough and sneeze around me made me anxious. My daily 11 minute journey to work by train became excruciating for me. My nerves were shot to pieces. The rational part of my brain told me the odds of catching the virus just on that short journey were minimal but I couldn’t shake that fear. I became very cross with complete strangers for coughing and not covering their mouths. I moved carriages when I heard one woman telling her friend they’d just returned from a holiday in Northern Italy which was emerging as a hot spot in Europe for cases of Covid-19.

One of the last photos I took on my commute to Liverpool city centre

Then, on Monday March 16 it was becoming clear that the cases of this virus were getting out of hand. The country was on the brink of a national health crisis that seemed to be spinning out of control. Word in the office was that we were going to be asked to work from home, to reduce our chances of catching and/or spreading the virus. On Tuesday that week we were told to take our laptops home and prepare to work from home for a few weeks. Maybe a month.

I remember feeling relief. Nothing else. My home was safe. My home didn’t have any risks to my health. Relief and safety. Work colleagues were anxious. Frustrated. They didn’t want to be at home. I’m sure a lot of people believed, in those early days, that this was an overreaction by the company. All I felt was safe. I was advised by the government and my doctors that I was “clinically vulnerable” and I should shield myself from the virus as much as possible. Hey, no problem. I booked four weeks worth of home shopping deliveries, sorted out having milk delivered three times a week, bought a bread maker and some flour and I was ready. Hatches battened.

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