I have conflicting emotions surrounding the outbreak of Coronavirus. On the one hand, I totally understand the seriousness of a novel virus with rapid transmission which can kill people with pre-existing health conditions, and on the other hand I want to scream that isolation, infection risk and vulnerability are situations already encountered by chronically ill people the world over and few have given a shit for a very, very long time.
I was bedridden with M.E. for a decade. I lived alone and lay in my bed, seeing and speaking to no-one, for 23 hours and 50 minutes of every single day. There was no internet, Skype, mobile phones or Whats App in those days and I could only speak for a few minutes on the phone before being totally wiped out. Not that anyone rang me, as my boyfriend and friends all fucked off. The only people I ever saw were my parents, who both worked full time and popped in with my dinner each night, and my cleaner who I paid to visit for 3 hours each Wednesday (if I hadn’t paid her she wouldn’t have been there). I maybe saw my GP twice a year if I begged her to call round, but other than that I lived in complete isolation. Did anyone give a flying fuck? That would be a big, fat no.
I dreaded going out for any reason. Not only did it make me feel so ill I prayed to die to escape the torture, but I also risked picking up any number of community infections – anything from norovirus to the common cold. And, of course, because my immune system was all to pot, if a virus came within 30 feet of me you could guarantee I would succumb to it. Healthy people suffer for a few days and then are back to normal, but if you have a compromised immune system all hell can break loose and it can have very serious consequences. I wish more people realized this. I went to my Camera club on Wednesday night and a woman sat next to me who was absolutely stinking with cold. She hacked, coughed and sneezed the entire time while I did my best not to breathe in her germs. Why the HELL was she there, spreading her infection to all in sundry?! Well, she didn’t have Coronavirus so apparently it’s fine to infect everyone with her lergie! Jaysus.
If I get her cold it means I then can’t visit my parents, despite the fact I am their main carer. My Mum, who has severe heart & lung disease, caught a cold mid December and has spent the last 3 months struggling to breathe. Last week she was on her 4th lot of antibiotics and her 4th lot of steroids, despite also using a daily steroid inhaler for her COPD. She looks dreadful and has lost loads of weight because the antibiotics make her feel sick to the pit of her stomach and give her the runs. Healthy people are incredibly selfish to go out into the community when they are obviously infectious and have no thought to the risk they pose to others less fortunate than themselves. All the advice over Coronavirus isn’t getting this message home if the situation with the woman at my camera club is anything to go by.
As a kid, I contracted Chicken Pox despite having been immunized. I was also the only girl in a 1300 pupil school to contract Scarlet Fever, and in my teens I also contracted Glandular Fever (Epstein Barr). I initially developed M.E. following a tummy bug I caught while working on a luxury cruise liner. I then developed severe M.E. after contracting viral meningitis while in a 5 star holiday resort in Kenya. My Mum had a heart attack in 2016 and on my first visit to her in hospital I contracted Norovirus. My immune system clearly doesn’t work as well as other people’s and doesn’t respond as it should when it comes into contact with viruses. Yet I look completely healthy!
Community born infections kill vulnerable people all the time yet it doesn’t make the headlines. 28,330 died of the flu in 2014/15 in the UK alone, let alone the figures from the rest of the world. Coronavirus doesn’t seem to affect children much, even if they get it, nor healthy young adults. You are more vulnerable to serious complications the older you are, or if you have pre-existing health issues, but that applies to any community born infection.
I’m not saying that Coronavirus isn’t serious, simply that any community born infection can be fatal for the vulnerable – it’s nothing new. And if you have to self isolate for a week or two quit whining and spare a thought for those people who have been isolated by chronic illness for years and who receive none of the attention being given to those affected by the current situation. STAY AT HOME if you are infectious with anything.