I have been in services for 9 years in various hospitals around the country and it has been very challenging at times for me and my family. I didn’t think until now, that the challenges we face as a family would test us any further, until Covid-19 came. It came and shook everyone up as a nation, for me I didn’t expect to go through anymore heartache but the challenges that coincided with the virus were unexpected for everyone, especially me.

I have been in services for 9 years in various hospitals around the country and it has been very challenging at times for me and my family. I didn’t think until now, that the challenges we face as a family would test us any further, until Covid-19 came. It came and shook everyone up as a nation, for me I didn’t expect to go through anymore heartache but the challenges that coincided with the virus were unexpected for everyone, especially me.

In January 2020 I was assessed to move on into the community, back to my home town where all my family live, and they were all excited and looking forward to having me back ‘home’ around them. I was accepted for 24 hour supported living. I was so excited to be back with my family at last and having some independence. All the details would be finalised in my CPA due in March 2020- this couldn’t come soon enough for me!

Then the Government announced a complete Lockdown, this was so hard to get my head around, what was going to happen? Was I still moving? When would I see my family? Unescorted leave stopped, only escorted grounds leave remained, no community leave, no visitors to the hospital. No family and no professionals. My CPA concluded over the phone, I was present but felt so emotional, it felt impersonal; I couldn’t hug my family, they were on the end of a phone. Hugging my family is something I will never take for granted again.

After this the pandemic hit us, myself and other service users started to show symptoms and became ill and we had to self- isolate in our bedrooms. When staff entered they were head to toe in PPE, I must admit when I first saw staff slowly enter my room in aprons, goggles, masks, shoe protectors, gloves- I was scared and the reality of the seriousness of the virus hit home. From this moment I had admiration for all staff involved in my care, doing their best to keep us all safe and well, even though they were very worried about their own families and health. This was not just a job; this was the whole staff at the hospital putting our welfare at the forefront of their mind; not only providing care, they did essential shop runs, carried out activities to keep spirits up and keep us positive. They were our listeners and symbolic ‘shoulders to cry on’ (as they had to maintain social distancing).

I found it hard to have my plans for moving on put on hold, I didn’t know how long this would take. It was frustrating because no one could give me a date of when I could move.

I have 3 children and 7 grandchildren who I was missing so much, 2 of the grandchildren are babies and I realised during lockdown they were getting bigger and I was missing milestones. Would they be shy with me as I haven’t seen them often? I was worried for the others home-schooling missing friends. Birthdays celebrated without a party, no friends or family invited. I was helping my children the best I could listening and keeping some positivity over the phone. It was hard to hear them struggle when I should have been there.

Staff made sure our mental health didn’t dip and helped us cope with these worries. They kept me busy; I joined activities I wouldn’t normally have done before the pandemic and enjoyed them. We had food shopping delivered by online ordering and the tuck shop ran for us twice a week, we had more use of electronics whenever we required. At the virus’s peak in the hospital we had to be confined to the ward, ground leave had to be stopped to prevent spread to other wards. Without the staff support at this time we would have lost hope. They kept us distracted from the worldwide pandemic and were angels in disguise, other service users agree too. A few other service users are at the same point in their journey as me and we should have moved on together; instead we supported each other and kept ourselves positive and ready for when the moves could actually happen.

I feel very lucky and honoured to have spent such an awful experience with people who are so kind, caring, respectful and to be in an environment where service users and staff have worked together to help me and my family conquer one of our biggest challenges. I have started packing again and am about to go on the most amazing journey with my family; things do get better with time!

A Service User, Waterloo Manor, Leeds

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