I was going to write a post of all the things I can no longer do because of the coronavirus pandemic, until I realised how shallow, counterproductive and self-indulgent that would be.
I an far luckier than most: young enough that the risk to my personal health is low, a profession that will pay me even if I have to call in sick in the event that I show symptoms, having the means to get treatment, and a home with access to internet and Netflix.
Other people are barely getting by. People who earn daily wages or who have been forced to go on unpaid leave are now wondering how they are going to support their families through this. The elderly population, who are most at risk, face the likelihood that if they get this virus the mortality rate is about 9%. That might seem small on paper, but it converts to thousands of deaths, thousands of lives lost, and one of them could be your loved ones.
Sometimes I read the news and its enough to send me into a spiral of hopelessness and fear. I have trouble sleeping most nights because I keep thinking of my friends, mostly nurses, who are running out of PPE; and my family, scattered all round the world, some of them with limited access to proper health care.
But there are things that keep me going, daily reminders that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that if we all stay calm, sensible and united we will get through this. So rather than indulging in reminiscing about things I can no longer do, or things that I don’t have (or indulging in a nervous breakdown) I’ve decided to make a list of the overwhelming acts of kindness that have seen me through these past couple of weeks:
A chatgroup of fellow nurses and close friends, created initially to plan parties but have now become a place to whine, vent and generally keep each other sane.
A colleague, offering to print and laminate things for me when I seem overwhelmed with the things I need to do at work.
An unexpected ally, telling me I need to be supported because I’m so busy doing teaching, and offering to do my coordinating shifts for me so I can just focus on what I need to do.
My boss telling me to go home early so I can rest and take care of myself.
An unexpected text from a rep I work with closely telling me to stay safe on the frontlines.
An offer from another rep, asking me to let him know if things get too busy so he can deliver food for the staff to eat.
The nightly salutes and tributes to health care workers in France, Spain, Belgium and other parts of Europe.
Daily texts and messages from family and friends telling me and my sister to keep safe.
Pret, Carluccio, Leon and other restaurants offering free drinks and/or 50% discount on all items for NHS staff.
A reply from someone who means so much to me, someone I’ve unintentionally let down and been out of touch with for almost a year, a reconnection that has made my world spin on the right axis again.
And finally, a close friend sending a care package to my parents, who live in a remote area in the Philippines where access to health care and medicine are limited. Thanks to her and her partner, my parents – who own a grocery store and who are staying open so people can still buy essentials like rice and canned goods – will have a supply of masks, Vitamin C, paracetamol and a thermometer. The sheer generosity of it makes me want to cry.
Sometimes you think you’ve never achieved anything great or meaningful in your life, that you’ve made the wrong choices, and have made far too many mistakes. But I don’t know. Somewhere, somehow, I must have done something right, to have people around me that I can count on when the going gets rough.
My only aim today, as I go through yet another day in the hospital, is to pass on the kindness I’ve received. Let’s make love and generosity a pandemic, and may it continue to be so long after the impact of Coronavirus has been forgotten.