Name: Hilary Andrews. Age 41-60
When did you first begin to realise coronavirus was something out of the ordinary ?
My son mentioned something. He was living and working in Hong Kong in late 2019 and again in January 2020 and he brought the Chinese "flu" to our attention. He told us that he had heard about a Chinese doctor in Wuhan who was trying to alert the world to a new virulent flu virus and that this Chinese doctor was being punished for trying to get the message out to the world.
When did it first impact you in a significant way ?
Around the second week of March .
In what way ?
Clients were beginning to ask if I was coming to provide training (my work at that time was delivering training to General Practice staff). There was a general "twitchiness" in the primary care training community around the viability and safeness of going into GP practices to deliver training. My last training session was delivered on 19th March - just before the Government lockdown came into force.
More personally, we were also due to be going on a skiing holiday in the French Alps on March 21st. The French ski resorts all closed on 14th March.
Workwise, however, on 13th March, I had a message from an old nursing colleague. Would I be interested in coming back to my old intensive care unit? At that point the local hospital (Tunbridge Wells at Pembury) was preparing for a large number of ventilated covid patients and were contacting all nurses with intensive care experience.
How worried did you become and why ?
I was not worried personally for my own safety. I was however, worried about elderly parents in their late 80s and 90s.
Are you still worried and why ?
As above. I personally think that lockdown worked in keeping these elderly relatives of mine safe. The force of the government messages proved to them that they had to curb their going out and their socialising. They are very active 80 and 90 year olds!
What were the biggest problems coping with lockdown?
This sounds minor, but not being able to "nip to the shops" for maybe a handful of ingredients for a recipe or meal was frustrating. The use of a car and availability of numerous grocery shops within a five mile radius has meant that we haven't had to do a large weekly shop for many years. However, during lockdown, with queues and the potential for catching coronavirus anytime when out of the safety of home meant that nipping to the shops was not an option.
On my weekly 6.30 am Tesco visits, the shopping has also been bought for two other households, the elderly sets of parents as outlined above. These households struggled with the concept of the supermarket shelves not being full. What, no flour again this week? What about yeast? No?? Is there really no soap?
We were lucky in that there have been three of us at home (Nick, my husband and my daughter Florence aged 20 home from university since before Easter). Loneliness has not been a problem but I guess for many, this must have been the real problem.
How did you manage ?
You just manage. Going to the supermarket at 6.30am became the norm to avoid the queues. Adapting to new ways of doing things - cups of tea in the garden when delivering shopping, zoom quizzes to keep the elderly parents occupied (one set coped remarkably well with the technology, the other parent, not so) .
Were there times when you despaired ?
What kept you (keeps you) going ?
I've been busy generally (see elsewhere on the site "Answering the Call" addendum regarding working back on intensive care) .
What was your lowest moment ?
I can't say I've had one.
What was your best/funniest memory ?
A few things...
- the Cricket Club Quiz on March 14th - seems so long ago now. We all said that evening that we didn't know how things were going to work out. Turns out it was probably the last proper social event that many of us went to. It was a good quiz!
- The community spirit of Five Oak Green and Capel Parish - everyone stepping up who was able to help where they could. People making masks, hospital scrubs, volunteering to help with those struggling with shopping etc, people offering free books, puzzles and games outside their houses, people ordering pizza deliveries from the Queens Head to help support the new landlords who were also so affected by the February flooding. And social media in the community where people have been able to share in these positive things going on. And Christine Langridge sharing all the History Society photographs of the Parish - they have been amazing to see.
- Plus, of course, my return to my original chosen nursing field of intensive care. Something I suppose I always thought I'd do at some point but had never got around to doing, or lacked the courage to do so the longer the time I had been "out". I've seen some harrowing things, some sad things but also some joyous moments when covid patients have left ICU for the wards and another wonderfully fulfilling 13-hour shift looking after one patient who will stay with me for a long time to come.
Do you think the government handled/is handling the crisis satisfactorily ?
Yes, I have criticism. But would another party, another government really have done better? I'm not so sure. It's all very well with hindsight, looking back and seeing what could have been done better.