On 18th March, after a short stay in hospital my dad died.  His death certificate said pneumonia, but as things developed over the coming months, we realised that it was probably more likely to have been Covid-19.  Five days later Boris Johnson announced the lockdown and as a family we began to deal with trying to hold a funeral, grieve and support my mum in what were very strange circumstances.  I think the only thing we did effectively was support mum whilst also keeping her safe.  Thankfully we are a close family and we all pulled together to support mum and keep her safe in the best way we could.  We have definitely not grieved properly and that feels odd, and we still owe dad the proper send off he deserves.

I came back off annual leave two weeks later only to be furloughed the next day.  This was not a surprise and I set to planning out what I needed to do to survive the next few months.  As the future was becoming more and more uncertain, I had to plan for the possibility that there would not be a job for me at the end of this crisis.  I have to admit, the next thing I did was to take complete advantage of what was turning out to be a beautiful Spring. 

Wendy wearing one of her face masks

I am a self-confessed hermit and, coupled with ordinarily working from home, being furloughed didn’t immediately have much impact on my life.  My daughter is living with me temporarily but is only home at weekends.  This did mean that she was able to do the shopping and I have to confess that - apart from taking the dog for a walk around the park and going out on my handbike - I never left home for three months.  That was all fine for a start, but I quickly found that my nights were getting longer, and my mornings were getting shorter; I had no purpose!  I needed something to do.  This coincided with the national shortage of PPE.  I sew, and as with all sewers I have a stash of fabric that would probably last me five years if I never bought another yard of material again.  So I decided to make face coverings and donate all proceeds to Aspire.  At the same time, I was approached by a group in the village to see if I would make scrubs to try and help to plug the shortage in the NHS.

Wendys face masks

Having something to do and feeling useful definitely helped me.  I’ve never been good at doing nothing and I know that always having a project means I maintain good mental health.  I did have a low point in June when I tipped my handbike over and damaged my shoulder, which meant that for quite a few weeks I was unable to even take the dog for a dawdle round the park.  Enforced ‘hermitry’ is no fun; it’s fine if I choose it but not when it’s imposed, and I have to say I was a grumpy git for a couple of weeks!

I don’t know about everyone else that was/is furloughed, but it certainly didn’t feel like a holiday.  I never felt quite relaxed about it and it felt more like I was waiting to go back to work.  Don’t get me wrong, I made the most of the time away from work, and let’s face it, the weather really helped too but I felt a mixed sense of relief when I was asked to come back to work for two days in July.  On one hand it was good to be back to trying to reconnect with my job and contacts, but I had also got used to filling my day without work and really had to change my mindset to refocus on having work as part of my day. 

Wendys dog

I do know though that having had numerous conversations with staff at the Spinal Injury Centres, they are very grateful that we’re are still around, and that staff are now coming back to work slowly.  My work at the moment is limited as most of the Spinal Injury Centres are really not ready to bring back Patient Education in the same format as it was before lockdown.

This has been a very strange time for everyone and one that I think most of us weren’t prepared for.  I am now more than ready to get back to some sort or pre lockdown normality, to be able to meet friends and family freely, go on holiday and not have that constant underlying anxiety when out and about. 

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Living with Spinal Cord Injury

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