As the world continues to play catch up with a virus that is seemingly out of control we all have a part to play. For most of us that part will be very simple and allow us to continue most of our every day life fairly well. For others however, that will not be the case. It’s when you put those two groups of people together that we all have a responsibility in keeping safe, helping others stay that way too, and most importantly, find a way to combat this horrific virus.

This page is not about the virus and what we should all do, by now we should all be aware of the plan of action each individual must take. This is a glimpse into the world of SELF ISOLATION, a phrase we are hearing on a daily basis now. For many it could be perceived as a bit of time away from work, tucked up at home, in reality though, it is far from that.

One of the SOUTH WALES LIFE team is self isolating at the moment. He is fine, it’s a cold with a little cough and he should be back to normality pretty soon. But in accepting that we all have a part to play, it would be remiss of him not to have followed this country of ours recommendations.

He’s a pretty healthy guy, fairly active and sociable and certainly not one to put himself in any vulnerable situations. Last Tuesday though he felt the beginnings of a cold coming on. He knew it was that and nothing more, I guess we all know our own bodies and recognise the signs, but immediately he took action and ensured both he and the people around him were safe from any possible consequences.

Before we delve into his short, daily diary, here is the NHS word on Self Isolation.

This advice is for people with symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), including those with a diagnosis of coronavirus (COVID-19) infection, who must remain at home until they are well.

The main messages are:

  • if you have symptoms of coronavirus infection (COVID-19), however mild, do not leave your home for 7 days from when your symptoms started (see ending isolation section for more information)
  • this action will help protect others in your community while you are infectious
  • plan ahead and ask others for help to ensure you can successfully stay at home
  • ask your employer, friends and family to help you to get the things you need to stay at home
  • stay at least 2 metres (about 3 steps) away from other people in your home whenever possible
  • sleep alone, if possible
  • wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds, each time using soap and water, or use hand sanitiser
  • stay away from vulnerable individuals, such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, as much as possible
  • you do not need to call NHS 111 to go into self-isolation. If your symptoms worsen during home isolation or are no better after 7 days, contact NHS 111 online. If you have no internet access, call NHS 111. For a medical emergency dial 999

DO

  • try to keep at least 2 metres (3 steps) from other people in your home, particularly older people or those with long-term health conditions
  • ask friends and family and delivery services to deliver things like food shopping and medicines – but avoid contact with them
  • sleep alone if possible
  • regularly wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds
  • try to stay away from older people and those with long-term health conditions
  • drink plenty of water and take everyday painkillers, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, to help with your symptoms

DO NOT

  • do not have visitors (ask people to leave deliveries outside)
  • do not leave the house, for example to go for a walk, to school or public places

Use the 111 coronavirus service

  • you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home
  • your condition gets worse
  • your symptoms do not get better after 7 days

If we were to add to that we’d simply say ASK. Don’t stay at home thinking you have no contact with the outside world. There are people to help, bodies and organisations who can come to your aid, or simply offer advice over the phone.

So, here are THE ISOLATION DIARIES.

MONDAY – DAY PRIOR TO ISOLATION

It started as a pretty average Monday, apart from the weather. Don’t know if you remember but last week South Wales was battered, once again, with terrible wind and heavy rain. I wouldn’t usually pay it much attention but I was out that evening and knew I was going to have to drive along the M4. It was terrible and the rain didn’t let up all night. We had a lovely time out though and I returned home and got into bed just before midnight. So another normal day in the outside world.

Little was I to know, at this point, that I wouldn’t be outside again for a little while.

TUESDAY – DAY ONE

I woke up at my usual time, around 6:30am and immediately felt a headache and scratchy throat. I hadn’t drunk the night before and don’t think I was overly loud or raucous. Being a writer and journalist I had done more than my fair share of research into the Coronavirus and although I didn’t think I had it, I knew we all have a responsibility to keep ourselves safe if there is any doubt. I too had to stick to that responsibility.

I’m fortunate that I work from home and I live alone. Fortunate in that I don’t have people around me to think about (I don’t mean that in a selfish way). I made a cuppa, made some business calls and settled into the computer to work. Although I hadn’t spoken the words out loud to anyone, I think I already knew that I would be joining the band of the many Self-Isolators.

Annoyingly, of course, if you are playing by the rules, it means you can’t slip out to stock up on essentials. What you have at home is what you have to live on. I won’t say survive as that is way too dramatic a phrase but if you are to ‘get through’ self isolation you need to be prepared.

I am absolutely not the sort of guy who hoards or stocks up. I have a regular amount of food and essentials and quite frankly wouldn’t have it any other way. I have witnessed people panic buying, Tins of stuff they would never eat in a million years. More bread than is good for anyone, and seriously, just how many bottoms are there in one household to justify 50 toilet rolls. Yes, I saw someone the other week with 50 of them.

In any case, I do not hoard but can live comfortably for a few days I suppose.

WEDNESDAY – DAY TWO

With my cold worsening, although not so bad that I was bedridden, I knew I had to face reality and make the calls and let people know I wouldn’t be out to play for a while. The most difficult call was to my GP. I wasn’t really concerned about having CV, I don’t fall into the vulnerable bracket and think I have kept myself fairly safe recently. I suppose I was a little concerned but mainly because I knew what I would be told, is what I have read and written about this last few weeks.

I couldn’t really settle throughout the morning as I waited for the Doctor to call. Obviously I couldn’t and wouldn’t go out, I knew self-isolation means just that. Not self isolation but still nip out to grab a coffee and croissant. I couldn’t really work, OMG daytime TV was driving me crazy, so I drank a lot of tea and waited.

After lunch the house phone rang and I knew this was the Doctor, no one ever calls on my house phone nowadays. She was very pleasant, listened to the description of my symptoms and how I was feeling. ‘Did I have a fever’ she asked, upset tummy, shortage of breath and so on. No, was my response to all of them, which was a blessed relief as she confirmed she was certain it was no more than a cold and I needed to treat it as such. Rest, Paracetamol and all the usual stuff you take for a cold. However, she went on.

I knew what was coming but listened as she gave me the standard advice which applies to those who may need to self isolate. Stay in till at least the start of next week. Nurse the symptoms and rest. DO NOT have contact with anyone, which includes answering the door if someone arrives, and certainly don’t have anyone around for company. She reassured me once again that she believed it was a cold and nothing more, if things worsened I was to call back but there was no need for any testing or the like.

With a relief that I had nothing more than a common cold I settled back, enjoyed another cuppa and thought how nice it will be to have a few days at home.

Oh how wrong I was.

THURSDAY – DAY THREE

I had the sniffles and a cough and my headache was still there, but really nothing more than a cold. That wasn’t the issue, the fact that I had to stay in was, I decided a plan of action is what I needed.

We’re a funny lot us humans I reckon. Most of the time we would jump at the chance to stay at home, to exit the world for a few days and have, what I call ‘BLUE MOON DAYS.’ Once in a Blue Moon you take a day off and do nothing at all, not even going out. By the way, no stealing that, it’s my idea. But now, I’m being told, sorry, advised to stay behind closed doors and somehow that feels a whole lot different.

I don’t want anyone telling me what to do, well that was my initial thought. I am a bit of a team player though and if we are in this living on the planet thing together, then we all have to play by the rules. So, the advice is to stay in, don’t have anyone come round, don’t answer the door to anyone and most certainly do not venture outside. Now all of that is great, until it’s not.

On this very day, a parcel delivery driver knocked on the door. I wasn’t prepared to be honest. Do I tell them I’m Self-Isolating and let them know about my situation? Well of course I should, it’s just part of the way it is. But if I’m writing this diary with whole honesty then I have to share my thoughts. My head was stupidly saying ‘don’t tell them. What will they think of you. Unclean and all that.’ Which is the most ridiculous thing to even consider, but you can’t help what you think and that’s what rattled around this befuddled head of mine.

In any case, rather than admit the truth I shouted on the intercom that I was in my pants and they should leave the package just inside the door, which they did. I haven’t been out to collect it yet incidentally.

I spent the Thursday afternoon cleaning. More out of boredom but also being practical. Everything I thought I had used since getting home on Monday had a thorough cleaning and disinfecting. This might help you if you get to this stage. Remember things like bank or credit cards, money in your purse or pocket, car keys, your shoes. As I say, it may have been the boredom kicking in but every thing here has been cleaned from top to bottom, and some.

Cleaning led to one harsh reality however, my fridge and cupboards and would I have enough supplies to get me through the next few days?

FRIDAY – DAY FOUR

By now my cold symptoms were not a concern. I sniffed and had the occasional cough, in fact at any other time I would have been out living a full life with a little snotty nose. The real issue is my self isolation. I awoke early to some messages from friends asking if there was anything I needed. As you do in these situations you reply with a ‘no, I’m fine’ but then you need to check if you actually are.

Thank heavens for my amazing Grandma and an old friend of mine who is a very, very famous TV Chef. Nana taught me that you should always keep a bottle of milk in the freezer for emergencies. I have to confess I thought she was mad, but out of love and respect for her I have kept one in there for years, changing it every 6 months or so. My chef friend told me that cheese freezes brilliantly, it really does by the way. So now I buy cheese, grate it, bag it up and pull a handful out every time I need it. It’s fantastic. You use only what you need and it defrosts in about 5 minutes.

So, I had milk, cheese, eggs, some bread in the freezer, amongst lots of other frozen items and actually, after emptying out the cupboards, I had more than enough to live on for at least a week or so. No chocolate or sweets in the house though, but maybe that’s a good thing.

There is still the issue of not being able to go outside, and by Friday evening I was beginning to dread the next few days. Now of course all of this is ridiculous, it’s a comparatively short time in isolation. In the big scheme of things this was nothing, in the world of the Coronavirus however, Self Isolation is everything and a role I knew I, and everyone else has to play.

SATURDAY – DAY FIVE

Having caught up on some movies, Frozen 2 is really good by the way, I settled down to do some work. The issue of being freelance is that if you don’t work you don’t earn. I understand how tough this must be for those who are isolated and can’t work from home. The tens of thousands who rely on being in the outside world all day, every day. Which is why it’s so important each of us play our small part in trying to combat this.

My day begins with a troll through all the papers and messages and from what I read, as powerful a tool social media is in supporting people through this, it’s also causing its own problems. Panic buying, people stocking up or selling for a quick profit. Surely in times of crisis we wouldn’t do this? Of course we would and indeed are. And some people are using social media to enable this.

So my day starts as usual, showered, dressed, cuppa and sat down to work, all fairly normal really. The underlying bug in your head though, if you are forced to self isolate, is that you can’t go out. You look out of the window and crave a wander down the street, even though it’s peeing down right now. Ironically, on any other day I wouldn’t even give a thought to going out in the horrible weather, I’d be more than happy to stay in with a cup of tea. Today though, I want, in fact need to go out.

These thoughts pass quickly as I settle down to a routine of work, phone calls and excessive tea drinking. I was aware that my eating was increasing and certainly my liquid consumption was well up. I put it down to boredom and a form of distraction to my isolation.

I spoke to an elderly friend in London, who is the most active person you know. For a woman in her 80s she would put the youngest of us to shame. She wants through the High Street every day. Eats out five or six times a week. Goes to the theatre, cinema and the occasional concert, if she can persuade one of her less agile friends to tag along. As I spoke about my self isolation, and the fact I may have to stay indoors for a week or so, the reality of her fears were explained to me.

With various press reports suggesting anyone over the age of 70 may have to self isolate for up to 3 months is driving this woman crazy. ‘How on earth’ she told me, ‘can I possibly stay in for all that time?’ Her family are dotted all around the world, America, the Netherlands and in Cornwall. While she does have many friends, people who would do anything for her at anytime, the reality is, they are well over 70 and would be subject to self isolation too.

So how, I wonder, is she expected to survive?

With her words ringing in my ear and concern for what ‘might be’ I put my worries about a few piddling days in isolation behind and continued working. The rest of the day passed quickly and before I knew it, I’d slept and was awake at 4am on Sunday.

SUNDAY – DAY 6

Waking this early is definitely the result of being confined to home, with little or no exercise or indeed fresh air. It was dark and miserable but nevertheless I pulled the curtains back, opened the windows and made a silent pledge to at least try and do something in the house, even if it’s a few exercise in front of the TV. I couldn’t help but think of my friend in London and the thousands of people who are in a similar situation. I understand the self isolation thing completely, and for me a week or so is fine, but three months! That has to be simply impossible.

I also thought about my late Grandma who had been through a World War with two very young kids, my Mum and her sister. She got through that, with all its devastation and heartache, surely we can do this? The difference is I suppose, there was no self isolation as such, people could get around and move relatively freely. The food and supplies is one thing but the isolation from real human contact is something altogether different. We are born to interact. We are sociable beings. We exist and survive with the people around us, even if that’s as simple as eavesdropping on a conversation in the local cafe.

I also wondered how my Nana would have handled this situation and without a shadow of doubt, her go to reaction was worry and panic. If she had been alive today, she would have been sat at home ‘fretting’ as she would call it, about what might be. Not how she would handle it, or indeed every member of the family who would have ensured her comfort and safety, panic and stress was her default emotion. Is that an emotion our elderly are feeling now I wonder and if so, what is that doing to their mental health?

As I settled down to do some work, I felt a real shift in my own emotions and one which I hoped would transmit around the entire country. No longer was I thinking ‘poor me’ or ‘how am I going to get through this.’ Instead my thoughts turned to those I love and care for. The people I may only speak to via the occasional text or email. Any parent will understand this overwhelming feeling to protect our kids, this isn’t something we know we have to do, it is actually in our human nature to protect at all costs.

So as I sit here writing day 6 of my Isolation Diary, I realise this is not about me at all. As supermarkets beg us not to panic buy. As venues close at an alarming rate. As more and more of us are asked to stay indoors for a week or two or maybe more, the simple fact is, we can only get through this together. And by together, I mean, if there is an elderly neighbour who may need help, just ask. If someone is struggling to get out for whatever reason, try and help if you can. The worst they can do is tell you to bugger off and leave them alone, the best that can happen is that you make a difference to someones life for a short period of time.

I remember my Nana telling me that Hitler’s hopes of breaking morale didn’t succeed. Our will made us more determined than ever she would say. ‘You couldn’t let the dangers we faced worry you. We accepted it and carried on with life – together. We just got on with it.’

So bring it on Covid 19, we’ll kick your ass too.

In finishing, all I will say is that self isolating is our contribution to the greater cause. No one likes being told what to do, how and when. Sometimes though we all have to play the game, chip in and do our bit. I’ve learned that, TV is the new cinema. Cooking is the new eating out. And coffee machines do make as good a cuppa as the lovely cafe’s we frequent. The boredom however, is something only the outside world can satisfy. It’ll be there waiting for us when we’re sorted.

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