The government is telling my husband to isolate himself from everyone – including me – for the next three months, and we’re not quite sure how to deal with that, really
This morning, Terry finally received his much-anticipated letter from the Scottish Government, advising him that, as one of the people at the highest risk from Coronavirus , he should isolate himself for 12 weeks, in order to stay safe.
The letter itself wasn’t a surprise to us. We knew, of course, that as a transplant recipient, the immunosuppressants Terry takes every day give him a much greater risk of complications from any illness, not just COVID-19: and, as we both work from home anyway, we’d already made the decision to isolate our household voluntarily , shortly before the government announcement was made.
So, we expected Terry to be told to isolate himself from the world at large for the next 3 months. What we didn’t expect, however, was that this morning’s letter would also advise him to isolate himself from me and Max for the same amount of time: which is going to be pretty hard going, really, given that we all live in the same house, and, well, Max is only 2.
That, however, seems to be what we’re faced with: because, having identified Terry as “someone at risk of severe illness if you catch Coronavirus,” the letter goes on to to advise him to avoid ALL face-to-face contact with anyone other than healthcare workers. In respect to the rest of the household, the letter gives the following advice, which can also be found on the NHS website :
* Terry and I should not sleep in the same bed – which will be tricky, given that we only have one, and it’s not looking like a great time to start shopping for bedroom furniture: assuming, of course, that we could afford it, having just lost a huge chunk of our household income.
* Terry should minimise the time he spends in the same room as Max and me: so, no more watching TV together in the evening, or sitting next to each other at our desks in the office.
* We shouldn’t share towels or cutlery etc – which, fair enough, we don’t do that anyway.
* We should use separate bathrooms: fine for us, but presumably not an option for everyone.
* Terry should eat all of his meals “in his room”, away from the rest of the household.
So, it seems that they’re expecting Terry to basically just lock himself in our bedroom for the next three months, with me sleeping on the couch, and leaving his meals outside the door. If we’re NOT able to do that, the letter advises us that, at the very least, Terry must remain at least 2 metres from me and Max at all times, and spend the absolute minimum time possible in our company.
Is it doable? Er, what do YOU think?
I mean, technically, yes, of course we could do it. Our bedroom is on a separate floor from the rest of the house, and has an en-suite bathroom connected to it, so Terry could just hole up there for the next three months and not see either of us. In practice, though, I honestly can’t see that working. Seriously, though: can you imagine trying to explain to a toddler that his daddy is in the same house, but that he must never, ever see him – or that, if he does, he mustn’t touch or approach him? For that to work, I’d have to physically restrain Max every time Terry was within his line of sight – which would be really distressing for all of us: as would the reality of living separately, but under the same roof.
(And, yes, before anyone jumps in to scold me, I DO realise that some people live alone, or under these sort of circumstances anyway, and my heart goes out to them: I’m not trying to claim that our situation is unique, or that we’re worse off than anyone else here – I’m just thinking out loud, really, and talking about our personal situation because it’s the only one I’m qualified TO talk about …)
Then, of course, there’s the mental toll. Terry not seeing his little boy for three months. Us not seeing Terry. Me having to do all of the childcare, plus all of the cooking, cleaning etc on my own … which would effectively mean we’d lose my salary as well as Terry’s, because anyone who’s ever tried to work from home, while looking after a toddler full-time, will know that it’s just not possible.
Is it even necessary, though, I wonder?
I mean, if I was going out to work every day, or mixing with other people, then, yes, I could definitely see the wisdom in minimising my contact with Terry. Given that neither of us is leaving the house for ANY reason right now, though, is it REALLY such a risk for us to eat a meal together, or sit next to one another on the sofa? Because I’m generally a very, “These are the rules, we better follow them,” kind of person: I’m as risk-averse as it gets, and I haven’t questioned the lock-down or isolation period at all… but even I’m struggling here to understand why I can’t see my husband in our own home, even though neither of us has left it for two weeks now?
That’s the advice we’ve been given, though: and I guess our choice now is to either obey it to the letter, or to assume that this advice is meant for families in which one person is still leaving the house regularly. The letter doesn’t actually SAY that, of course – but surely that’s what they mean? Surely?
Either way, I have to admit that, even though we knew it was coming, receiving this letter today has left me feeling incredibly low. It all feels very real now. And, while most of the people I follow on social media seem to be treating the current lockdown as a bit of holiday, and talking about how they’re sleeping late now that they don’t have to get up for work/school, then enjoying walks in the sunshine, and lots of good ol’ family time, the fact that we’re still waking up a 6am, to pouring rain and freezing fog, and then being told we’re not even allowed to eat breakfast together, is pretty hard to deal with, really.
Of course, for many people, the lockdown is just three weeks (or so we’re told), and I guess it’s easy enough to imagine yourself getting through three weeks of loneliness and inconvenience, if it means staying safe. For those in the most vulnerable groups – and their families – though, we’re looking at three months of this: without even the ability to spend time together in our own home to make it a little more bearable. And I know people are going to want to tell me that the alternative is even worse – as if I didn’t already know that – but the fact that dying of Coronavirus is very, VERY bad, doesn’t exactly make the prospect of not seeing another living soul for the next 10 weeks – not even the ones you live with – suddenly GOOD, does it?
We will do it, if it’s what we have to do to keep Terry safe, obviously. But I’m not going to pretend that it’s easy, or that this isn’t the worst thing we’ve ever experienced: worse even than the transplant itself, which we were at least able to have the support of our families and friends for, as well as knowing that, once it was over, normal life would resume.
Right now, meanwhile, I’m not sure normal life will ever resume: in fact, I’m quite surprised by the number of people who appear to be operating on the assumption that, in two weeks time, the lockdown will be over, and everything will just go back to normal. The stark reality for our family, meanwhile, is that until there’s a vaccine for COVID-19, our lives will NEVER be normal again: and I’m really not sure how to cope with that…