Monday 18 May 2020

The Covid Chronicles

A longer blog than normal as I have decided to document my experiences over these very strange times....

So I write this in the midst of the Covid-19 outbreak and what an impact it has had both on my biking activities and on life in general.

At the start of the outbreak I was pulled off my normal day to day duties at work and transferred full time into the Northamptonshire NHS Incident Coordination Centre to work on the response to what we were then still calling the Wuhan Novel Coronavirus. So why me? A result of being the Business Continuity lead and the legacy of twenty five years experience in Emergency Planning, that's why.

In this mode we went from a disease occurring overseas, to one that reached our shores, to the first UK deaths then the first cases locally in Northamptonshire and eventually the first death in the County. 

All very sombre stuff, especially as in the back of my mind was the fact that having a compromised immune system due to the medication I take for Myasthenia makes me at increased risk from the virus. Not only would it be easier for me to catch it, with no available treatments all the health service can do is support patients whilst their immune system fights the disease. Oh hang on a second, what if your immune system doesn't work properly!

We started to learn new terms like Social Distancing, Self Isolation and still my favourite Covidiot! Yes of course it can travel down 5G radio waves you numpties!  And of course the virus and disease also got proper names, SARS-CoV-2 and Covid-19 respectfully and our knowledge grew as we dealt with a deluge of information as constant updates to guidance came flooding in from Public Health England and NHS England.

And then it all changed when Grainne went down with a sore throat in mid March, she duly contacted NHS111 and despite none of her symptoms being any of those listed for Covid-19 she was told to self isolate and of course that meant me too. So I switched to working from home, this of course makes it quite difficult to work on the emergency response so I actually switched back to doing more of the day job again. Grainne thankfully recovered after a few days but as she was never tested at the time, we don't know of it was Covid-19 or not? We do doubt it though.

Grainne was able to go back to work after her symptoms had cleared but I was to continue to self isolate for 14 days in case I developed symptoms. 

But then everything changed....

During this time the government guidance was published on shielding those at extreme risk and contained the category:

"People on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection."

Sound familiar?

So I sat back to wait for my letter from NHS England, which eight weeks later, still hasn't arrived! 😕

Despite this It was certain this applied to me and work agreed that I was definitely in this category, so it was 12 week complete isolation for me. This was confirmed when work circulated the letters being sent by NHS England to GPs and one states:

"All patients on the following medications have been centrally identified and will be contacted via the letter: 
• Azathioprine 
Mycophenolate (both types) 
• Cyclosporin 
• Sirolimus 
• Tacrolimus"

Me? I'm on the immunosuppressant Mycophenolate Mofetil so no doubts there. But as I said I still haven't received a letter! It would seem i'm only one of thousands who have been missed so I'm not feeling singled out. As I said work are OK with this so a letter is not essential for me but it seems on getting a letter your name is also given to the supermarkets to allow you to get priority on their home delivery services, which would have been useful!

OK we weren't desperate for food and supplies as we had gone in to this with a well stocked fridge and freezer and even had plenty of toilet rolls in stock as we already have them delivered from the excellent Who Gives a Crap and recently got a box of 48! and Grainne can still shop but It's not exactly fair on her after working long days as a community midwife, including the stress of doing so in full PPE and never knowing if she's going to contract the virus and bring it home with her, to expect her to queue for who knows how long in a supermarket car park after her shift.

I registered on the website as extremely vulnerable and eventually Ocado came up trumps and offered me priority slots for deliveries every two weeks. Even if it did then take a week for them to agree our post code does actually exist. come on Ocado we've only been here five months and the road and house has existed for over a year. 

So currently I continue to work at home, I'm not supposed to leave the house (no not even for one period of exercise a day) but of course as mentioned Grainne is back working in the thick of it, so it is social distancing at home for us as well: separate bedrooms, separate bathrooms and trying to maintain a two metre separation in the house. Not easy at all!

And the guidance on shielding has increased the period to the end of June so that makes it 14 weeks for me and they are already talking about having to extend the date!

News update! I finally got my shielding letter after eight and a half weeks! It still says to remain at home for 12 weeks from the date of the letter.... err that would make it mid August 😲

I did get ill the other week and actually got out of the house for a trip to the car park of the John Radcliffe Hospital for a covid-19 test in a tent in the pouring rain. Thankfully that was negative, not sure that i've ever enjoyed failing a test so much. Turns out it was likely to have been a (non covid) viral infection that triggered a flare up of myasthenia.

So what about bikes?

On the bike front, I'm getting a little fed up with all the facebook posts from people saying how great it is they have all this time to maintain their bikes. 

Apart from not having loads of extra spare time as i'm still working, three out of our four bikes are still in off site storage after the house move in January so inaccessible to us. To be fair only the 450 EXC could do with some TLC but of course  that's one of them that's in storage! I have the 1090R at home but at 18 months old it doesn't need anything doing to it. I've cleaned it and done a few bits of fettling but nothing more to be done. So at present all four bikes are on a SORN and out of use.

And why is it all these people seem to have immaculately tidy workshops? Or perhaps those with messy ones like me don't bother posting pictures. Although to be fair I am in the middle of painting the garage floor a bit at a time, which involves shifting everything around, not to mention having the contents of Owen's flat in there as he moved out of his place in Sheffield back in March as the university was shut down and his tenancy was ending. So he is now staying with us for the time being and enjoying our 120 mbps internet compared to the 6 mbps he was "enjoying" in Sheffield, luckily he can continue his research and work online but what else would you expect when his doctorate is in cyber security.

On the rally front obviously all events are cancelled or postponed and at present we have no idea what the future holds, so we have turned to virtual rallying...

With Burt, Tony and Mike from the Rallymoto team we created daily road bok exercises over four weeks. Entrants were asked to donate to the NHS Charities together and every day they got sent a short road book of about 40-50km and a map excerpt and had to find the finish point.

Every week the answers were put into a conversation table (that sneakily has several wrong answers that are close to the correct ones) and these gave a letter for each correct answer. This created a five letter anagram that gave a word related to bikes or rallying. Entrants could then submit their answers each week for an entry in a prize draw to win some Motoz tyres courtesy of Adventure Spec. Enter each week and that was four goes in the draw.

The eventual winner was drawn last week and we raised £2600 for the NHS Charities Together.

Some of the comments we received back were great, so we are now looking to what we can do next. My Dakar Rally quiz is currently online and seems to be causing a few problems!!!

We are also putting together plans for our postponed events when they eventually happen, hopefully this will be the first...


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