Alan - Isolation & Shielding

by Alan who lives with his wife Ruth in Dunfermline.

I took the decision to self-isolate on 10 March 2020, as soon as the coronavirus had started spreading in Scotland. I also took the decision not to go to the hospital to get my monthly injection although I knew the possible impact of not continuing the treatment in the short term. At the time there was too much uncertainty around containing the coronavirus for me to realistically go and one missed treatment wouldn’t be a problem. The hospitals have now been forced to cancel all clinics but my monthly hospital injections have started from home. I had my first home visit on Friday although they would prefer it if Ruth or I would carry the injections out ourselves. Ruth doesn’t like the idea (I had to take the children for their inoculations) and I shake too much at times to be reliable. We will see how that develops depending on how many people can do it themselves but again they have their strategy worked out and are at the stage of implementing it.

At first I was more concerned about me getting the virus and not paying enough attention to what Ruth was going through to try and protect me. I assumed as she was going to the shops early in the morning this was enough but this was a big mistake! Ruth was more worried about picking up the coronavirus and infecting me than I realised. She also needed to be protected and needed someone else to get the shopping (the medication has always been dealt with by our local pharmacy from doctors surgery to home). Unfortunately she is still struggling to get the support she needs even though the latest advice is she should be self-isolating in order to shield me.

Another issue that Ruth is trying to deal with is making sure that my mother in Dollar and her two Aunts in Edinburgh are also getting the support they need. She has already made a couple of trips to Edinburgh to handover groceries to her aunts. Ruth is doing an amazing job but that is also taking a toll on her.

The speed of change in implementing the agreed actions was difficult to keep up with. Going from “in the next few weeks” to “NOW”. This makes me concerned about how the situation and timing of the spread of coronavirus has accelerated much faster than either the experts predicted or the government hoped and I'm left wondering if they have they got it right. Things in the UK seem to be settling into some sort of order. I know that we are only just implementing plans for support in the community but at least we are seeing that the most vulnerable seem to have been identified. Ruth has struggled to find out what support she can get and from who but we now have a new system in place to get a click & collect with Sainsbury’s whereby we book a slot as it becomes available and add some groceries for the weeks ahead. The groceries can then be edited nearer the time. We have also got milk deliveries setup which will hopefully start this week.

I have been struggling with my asthma for a few months now because of the stress I put myself under. This was exacerbated in January when I was too high risk for sedation for a medical procedure (a subsequent CT scan showed no major issues, just a couple of minor ones). This meant that by the time coronavirus hit the UK I hadn’t time to change my approach to stress. From 'this is going to be bad" to "this could be fatal" headlines are just reaching fever pitch about the number of people dying. I eventually managed to find some meaningful statistics with breakdown of the death rates among different age groups and health conditions.

In order to try and relax I turned to YouTube to get some relaxing sounds of waves lapping on beaches. This was just the tip of the iceberg! I've now been travelling around eastern Europe in cabs of railway engines (really). I actually find it peaceful in two ways; one, the beautiful scenery and, second, having the rails in front of you is quite hypnotic and adds to the relaxation. Plus I get to see places I’m never going to get to. This fills the gap of finding something else to focus on rather than what’s going on in the world, which you can’t do anything about anyway.

I have always found “normal” relaxation techniques weird as I am a very literal person who can’t wish their problems into a piece of rock or whatever. I also tend to end up thinking “how much longer is this going to take”. However keeping up with the latest advice from trustworthy sources I've been using the BBC, NHS Scotland, WHO, Mind and even an article in the Lancet. They tend to have balanced views about the spread of the virus and the latest advice on simple things like using separate rooms in a house, increased awareness of keeping surfaces and hands clean plus who, when and how effective wearing a facemask really is. You should avoid things said on Facebook, Twitter or other social media unless you 100% sure of the authors credentials and qualifications.

Another problem I quickly realised was moving around the house was not really an option but in the end I worked out a route around the upstairs landing which was about 20 metres. This is my normal limit and I am trying to do it three times a day. I takes about two minutes to complete which is fine as long you don’t compare yourself to Usain Bolt who travels that distance in just under two seconds! I also find that I have to concentrate so hard on not falling that it clears your head of anything else. Apparently exercise is good for you even if it is only for two minutes at a time.

My daughter when faced with working from home for weeks decided that she would come and stay with us. She is able to spend more time with Ruth and they tend to like the same things on TV. It is one of the factors that mean my movements are generally restricted to upstairs, hence the sprint round the landing, but if you offset this against the fact that she really enjoys her baking it’s a no brainer! (Goodness knows what physio will say the next time they weigh me.) She seems to have settled into a routine working from home and with the issues of conference calls. My daughter thinks that the biggest problems are the fact that most people are also dealing with the children being home and bored, the other seems to be the bandwidth that conference calls use so in those cases where both parents are involved in conference calls they have to make sure that are arranged for different times. This is a location specific problem with local broadband having low speeds anyway. It's not the fault of ISPs as I can usually watch UHD programs on YouTube while my daughter is on a call, although I try to avoid this if I can.

It is also interesting to see how different companies are coping with the situation. Tesco Bank, where my daughter works, had already identified the key departments and split each team in two with half working from home one week and then the other half the next. They had also identified a couple of people in her team who were higher risk and suggested that they work from home the whole time. Unfortunately the speed of coronavirus spreading was so fast that they now all work from home and to my daughters relief can’t be redeployed elsewhere within Tesco.

My son works in IT for a local agency handling sensitive data. They had the issue that all their contingency plans were based around just moving to a backup site. This meant he and his colleagues had one week to set-up remote support, setting up company laptops and phones in one week. This also including training everyone (one-to-one) in the same space of time. This is now complete and he seems to enjoy working from home as he can catch up with the projects he is working on without many interruptions. His partner is going stir crazy although that may improve as her Gaelic Choir is now practicing via conference calls.