Journal of the Plague Months Chapter 2

Journal of the Plague Months: Chapter 2

Wednesday April 1st

Left a tray for Catrin with all the usual on and some tissues.   I did wonder if she only has a cold or if it is CV.   But she has no breathing problems, and doesn’t seem to have a temperature.  She is being sick.

As I was due to go for a hearing check at the doctor’s, walked up to the health centre.  The appointment was at 10 am, and I got there for 9.45, feeling quite pleased I’d done my bit for the environment by walking.   

Lots of confused people standing around the main doors, which were locked.   We could see people at the desk, but nobody took any notice of us.

We walked around the building and eventually found a small door.    It had a notice on it asking us to ring if you had an appointment, so I did.

It was answered by a man in what I suppose is Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE.   It’s one of those new terms I’ve learnt, like social distancing or herd immunity.

He reared back in horror when he saw us standing there.

“Don’t come any closer!”

I suppose it was like this in the times of the Great Plague and the Black Death and so on.   

We shuffled along in a queue.    When I got to the top, he stood some distance from me.   I explained about my clinic, and he said all clinics had been cancelled till further notice, and I should have had a text or call.

Thursday April 2nd 

John had to take a bucket up to Catrin as she is being sick.   I’m not sure that sickness is a symptom of CV.

I decided that she needed a doctor, and maybe she  would get a home visit from somebody in full PPE.   I called and to my surprise they answered straight away, but took our  phone number and said it would be a telephone consultation only.    I said in that case they needed her mobile number as she is in bed.   

The doctor did ring within an hour, and diagnosed gastroenteritis.   She prescribed something which she said would go straight to the chemist.   

In the meantime, I have her a Lemsip and paracetamol as she is still streaming. 

John went for it later.   He had to queue at the chemist’s; they went in two at a time.   I asked him to get paracetamol.   It wasn’t on display; they got it from under the counter and said it was being rationed to one pack per person.  Well, we haven’t got formal rationing but people are fighting in supermarkets over soap, handwash and loo rolls.

Friday April 3rd

Catrin a bit better today.   She drank a cup of tea and ate some grapes.

John thinks we need to switch to home delivery of food as she has been ill while here.   In fact, the milkman can deliver much of what we need.   I called in at the vegetable shop, the butcher and the health shop on the High St, and they agreed to deliver also; you order over the phone and pay by card, and they leave it on the doorstep.   None of them charged for delivery, and it was all on the day of order.    Liz was in a queue for a supermarket, and it was a three week wait for delivery.

I wondered very much how older people who don’t use the Internet are managing.    There was something in the free newspaper about the Council setting up a phone befriending service for older people, and council staff working from home will deliver supplies.    Also that our local food banks are now making home deliveries, and very busy.    I thought I should really do some form of volunteering.

On facebook, the nice deli I use in Colwyn Bay was also offering to do home delivery.    

None of these places charged for delivery.    I have always used them and will continue to do so after all this is over. 

Saturday April 4th

Catrin had some toast for breakfast, and soup for lunch, and ate plenty of grapes.   She thinks she may go home.

I did our telephone order for home deliveries.   They ring the bell when they come, and leave your order on the doorstep.   It’s lovely bringing the boxes into the kitchen and sorting through them.   I had a fruit, salad and vegetable delivery from the milkman and it’s all fresh and local.

Went on a walk down to the beach.   Sat on a bench looking at the sea on the coastal path.   It was a beautiful day, blue sky, blue sea, seagulls calling, cyclists whizzing down the cycle path.   Everybody who passed me did cross to the other side of the path.

I suppose our lives are indeed like those who went through the war, a huge cataclysmic change in everyday life.   Mom used to talk about this; Dad was evacuated and didn’t think much of it.   

But it’s different in some respects.   Mom still went out to work every day, even though Birmingham was being blitzed (and she said they never went to the air raid shelters, just carried on working).   She was in the midst of all her family, apart from Grandad, who never came back from Dunkirk.   And she did go out every night, usually to the pictures or the youth club.    Whereas we have nowhere to go.

When I got home, Catrin was well enough to have dinner, and said she is going back to the flat.   John’s main complaint was about getting cat food and cat litter for the cats; it’s something our deliveries don’t cover.

Sunday April 5th

Catrin went home.

We had tickets for the film Emma on the day lockdown started and a play at the local theatre.   John tried to contact the box offices but had an out of the office reply.

It is sad to think of all the cinemas and theatres being closed, and I wonder how many will re-open.    Or shops, cafes, restaurants.  Or if life will ever be normal again.    People are talking now about the New Normal.

Mom used to say that in 1945, there was a sense of optimism in with a new government, the end of the war, the welfare state to look forward to, Birmingham to be re-built.   But I don’t feel like that.    I don’t feel optimistic about the situation we are in.   And I really worry about the jobs situation.   1000s of job losses are announced daily on the BBC.   And there may not be much for them to go back to.   I’m close to retirement; what a sad time to be a young person.

Monday April 6th

Worked from home, on shared documents on the Google Drive.   I’ve been at work forty years, and it’s odd how things have changed.   We’re also doing an on line enquiry service for staff and students, and of course they’ve got access to e books.   

Having read all my library books, I registered for the online books download service, although I struggled with the software.

Liz called later, or rather did something called Face Time, which she had to explain to me.    It was nice to see her, although the phone screen is quite small.

She explained that she has been furloughed - understandably, it’s not thought that the catering staff can work from home.   

My eldest nephew is working from home, as he’s in computers.    The youngest works for Macdonald’s and is furloughed.    The middle one works at the Welsh Mountain Zoo, and he’s in, because of course animals have to be looked after.    She said the Zoo is worried about their future financially though.   I promised to make a donation.   

It was announced on TV that Boris Johnson had gone into hospital.   It was difficult to care.

Tuesday April 7th

We had a staff meeting via Google Meet, something else I’ve had to master.    Really, I would have liked to retire when I was sixty, but of course I didn’t get my pension.    I just feel that things are passing me by now - I’ve reached the end of my learning curve, and don’t want to learn any more about ICT.

Although it is nice to email friends, which I did in the evening.    Felt tired and went to bed early.    Missed out on my walk.  

Weds April 8th

Awoke with a bit of a sniffle and was glad that I was not working from home.    I have now finished until after Easter, and was relieved about that.

Didn’t feel like coffee, and drank tea all day.   Felt listless, as I always do with a cold, and did not go for a walk.  

Had soup for dinner, and drank orange juice - sort of comfort food.

More sad news about shops, pubs and restaurants going into administration, which will never open again.   And some bosses of course are taking advantage of the furlough scheme to lay staff off.    All that money they took off us when times were good, and then they weren’t there for us when times were bad.    Rather like those who profited from the war.

Boris Johnson was moved into intensive care.   If the privatisation of the health service continues, he’ll know what it is like to have to pay for this.

Thursday April 9th

Couldn’t be bothered to get up today.    Stayed in bed and listened to the radio and read.  I wasn’t very hungry - ate mainly toast and soup.    Was thirsty though.

Friday April 10th 

Good Friday, and the deli included Hot Cross Buns in our home delivery.   I did eat one with lots of butter on, so I’m hoping I’ve turned the corner.   Still very thirsty and drank lots of orange juice.  Which soon came up.   

Saturday April 11th

I’d bought John and Catrin some chocolate from the Fairtrade shop before everything closed down, so John popped round with Catrin’s and left it on the step.

Because of her heart, she is now ‘shielding.’   It’s one of the new phrases we have had to learn, like lockdown, social distancing, and New Normal.

Sunday April 12th: Easter Sunday

Did not feel hungry at all, though John fetched me some grapes, and then ended up eating most of them himself.  I was sick after I drank some milk.   I have gone off tea and coffee completely.

Monday April 13th

Not hungry at all.    Just tried to drink a lot.    Terribly thirsty.

Tuesday April 14th

Tried to eat some toast for breakfast and was horribly sick straight after.

Same with soup at lunchtime.    Had no dinner.   Stayed in bed.   John had to put a bucket next to it.

Boris Johnson left hospital.    As he is going straight off to Chequers, he obviously won’t be doing anything.   

Weds April 15th

Wondering if I’ll be well enough to go back to virtual work on Monday.  The few things I tried to eat came up.   Burning thirst, but didn’t want any tea - drank juice.

Thurs April 16th

Slept very badly as I feel so odd - couldn’t stand the feel of the quilt.

Started bringing orange juice up now.  

I tried milk, and that was awful.    But I am so thirsty all the time.   

Friday April 17th

Spent the whole day being sick.   Asked John to get me some Lucozade.

The only time I like it is when I am unwell.   I don’t think I have CV though as I don’t have any breathing problems, and I don’t have a temperature.   Haven’t had the radio on for days, as I can’t stand the noise anymore.

Saturday April 86th

Slept badly, kept waking up with a burning thirst.    Drank Lucozade, and brought it all up.   Couldn’t get to the loo as I am too weak to walk.

Sunday April 19th

On nothing but water now.

I took a few sips this morning, so I would not dehydrate.    I’ve forgotten all about food - have not eaten for about 10 days now.   

Ten minutes later, the water came up.   I tried again, with the same result.

I stared at the bucket, and called for John.

As he came in, I said:

“It’s time to go.”

He stared at me.

“What do you mean?”

“I need you to call for an ambulance.”

Until I said that, I didn’t know I was going to say it.   I could have asked him to call the out of hours service.   I could have asked him to take me to Accident and Emergency.

“Shall I call the GP?”

“It’s Sunday.    You know what happens.   They refer it to an out of hours service, and they ask you to rate yourself on a 1 to 10.”

I suddenly realised why I needed an ambulance.

“I haven’t eaten anything for ten days.    I can’t even hold water down now.   And you can’t take me because I can’t get up.    I can’t get dressed.   I can’t go down the stairs, and I can’t sit in the car.”

As he turned to go out the door, I added:

“And phone on your mobile.    If it’s like the last time when I had to rate myself, I had to get up to go to the living room when I had vertigo, and I could hardly walk.”

Not long after, I heard him on his mobile.    I couldn’t hear what he was saying, then he came in.

“It’s a nurse …   she wants to speak to you.”

I hoped she was not going to ask me to rate myself on a one to ten.    But she proved surprisingly sympathetic.   Then she asked to speak to John again and he went out.   

He came back, looking worried.    I think he really took my illness seriously for the first time.   And thought that I would get better.

“She does think you need to be in hospital, and she’s called an ambulance,” he said, looking stunned.   I felt almost sorry for him.   

“Get me ready to go …  I can’t get dressed.    Bring me a dressing gown and slippers, and my little toiletries bag from the bathroom, and put a hairbrush into my bag.”

I don’t know what last vestiges of vanity I had, that I got John to bring me a clean nightdress, and a new dressing gown, and the slippers that I always wear at Christmas.    

This only took about twenty minutes, and then we heard the doorbell ring.    I was surprised they were so quick, as you hear so many horror stories.

“I’m Owen, he’s Glen,” one of two big men dressed in blue introduced themselves.   “We call ourselves Owen Glendower.”   They both laughed.

I felt a bit embarrassed about being in my nightie.   And the state of the bedroom.  But I couldn’t lift my head from the pillow.

They were very thorough.   John explained about the sickness.    They took my temperature and blood pressure, and conferred a bit.   Then Glen said:

“You don’t have much of a temperature and your blood pressure is pretty normal.   But you can’t eat or drink, and we think you’re dehydrated.   We think it’s better if you go to Glan Gele (our local hospital) for observation.”

John looked ready to sink through the floor.   I don’t think he thought it would happen till it did.

Then there was the problem of getting me into the ambulance.    I couldn’t walk at all.   Owen Glendower lifted me into a wheelchair and I was promptly sick.   They didn’t seem to mind.   Owen gave me a bag to be sick into.

Then there was the problem of getting the chair down the stairs.    They fetched some kind of small ramp from the ambulance and got me down a few steps at a time.   Then they lifted the chair down the front steps, to where the ambulance was waiting.   I could see the neighbours looking out of their windows.  

Once I was inside the ambulance, they lifted me from the chair onto a bed, and strapped me down.  Owen sat with me.

I could hear Glen talking to John.

“We can’t take you in the ambulance.   Visiting times are only fifteen minutes now, but you’ll have to ring to see where she is.”

I raised myself on my elbow as the doors were shut, I saw John’s distraught face.

It was a short journey down the A55 to Glan Gele.   I clutched my sick bag.

“I’ve never been in an ambulance before,” I said to Owen.   And had I not felt so ill, I would have liked to look around.

“We’re taking you to A & E,” he said.    “So we’ll be going round the back.    Three quarters of the hospital is CV now, the rest is cancer, maternity and A & E.”

When we got there, we had to wait outside a locked door at the back for a bit.    Then Owen and Glen put me back into the chair, then onto a waiting trolley, and then lifted me into a bed in a small cubicle.

“You’ll be fine now!”

I was sorry to see them go.   I thought I might never see them again, and I hadn’t thanked them enough.   

Nobody took any notice of me for a bit.    I could see other occupied beds, and staff moving around in gowns and masks.  I felt quite peaceful.    I didn’t feel as tense as I did at home, where I felt I had to get well as soon as possible.  I felt I was somewhere where I would be looked after

Eventually, things started happening; I had my blood pressure checked and temperature taken.    Then a young doctor came up to me.    They all seemed so young.

“We’ll keep you in for forty eight hours, and give you anti sickness medication,” he said.

As he finished, a male nurse came up behind him.    He asked me to open my mouth; I did, and he inserted something into it.

“A swab,” he explained.

I was lifted onto a trolley again, and wheeled off through the hospital.    We went through a huge set of double doors, which read:

Ward Nine: Monday April 20th

Ward Nine apparently has 120 patients, but I’m in a small room with four other women.   

When we got here, I was lifted into a hospital bed.    They are very different

to how I remember them.    Mine has controls so you can raise and lower the head, and a control to call the nurse.   But I don’t want to raise my head.    I think I have got worse since I came in.

I refused breakfast, which was brought in by a genial man called Tom.   He went to every bed, and asked people what they wanted.    I took only an orange juice, as the burning thirst has returned.   As soon as I drank it, through a straw, it came up.

A nice blonde nurse came up to me.

“I’m Susan,” she said.    “We’re going to put you on a drip, and also anti sickness medication.”

This involved having needles fitted in my arms on both sides.   I winced as they went in.  

Another lady came to my bedside.   She too was wearing an apron and a mask, and a scarf over her head, and gloves.

“I’m Maria,” she introduced herself.    “I’m your Healthcare Assistant.   I’m going to help you with a wash.”

After drawing the curtains, she brought a bowl, towel and soap, and patiently washed my hands and face and arms.   I didn’t feel well enough to sit up, so she couldn’t wash my body.   

“I need to go to the toilet,” I whispered.

I don’t know why; I’m not drinking.   I suppose it is the drip.

“I will bring you a bedpan,” she said; obviously I can’t move without having to take all the equipment with me.  

The bedpan turned out to be made of cardboard and she slid it into the bed.    It’s like being a child again.

I thanked her for all her care of me, and as she has a slight accent, I said:

“Where do you come from originally?”

She smiled.

“I am from Belarus.    But here, in this hospital, we are not from anywhere.   We are an army fighting Coronavirus.    That is who we are.”

At half past eight, Susan and the other nurse Yasmin left and the night shift arrived.

Refused all food today and slept very badly.    There is a lady, Dorothy, opposite me who has dementia.   She snored very loudly.    Machines kept going on and off.

To be continued…

Alys Morgan

A Journal of the Plague Months is based on a true story.