Diary of a Doctor – Chapter 5 – It’s Not Over Yet

It’s funny how you get into little routines when you’re in lockdown.

We’re fortunate that our house backs on to a woodland walkway.

It’s about a mile round trip over a little stream, through the forest and past ponds where tadpoles grow in numbers by the day.

It’s a magical walk, and one that I’ve not done often despite living in Oxford for over 7 years.

But now I’m fully learning to appreciate it. The bluebells are absolutely stunning at the moment, and climbing trees is excellent free fun.

Our daily outing has also helped our son become quite proficient on his bike.

I’m a keen runner, and take the opportunity to do one long run if Alex isn’t working the weekend.

Now I’ve got a new running partner.

Our daughter is a fantastic swimmer, but missing her sessions has made her desperate for some exercise. It’s nice to have someone to keep me company.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, there are are some surprising benefits of lockdown.

We spend the whole weekend, not really doing much else apart from this daily exercise, cooking, eating and playing board games.

How simple home life has become.

Monday 27th – Friday 1st May

However, in the hospital things couldn’t be more different.

It’s uncommonly up and down.

Alex says that Covid patients seem to come in waves.

Just when you think it’s easing off, another huge influx arrives.

There’s usually a streamlined service at OUH (Oxford University Hospital), but with all the testing that’s going on at the moment there’s a clash of demands.

Just think how many test samples they’re having to label, anonymise and safety store at the correct temperature.

Now imagine the additional paperwork, the consent forms, the databases that need to be built. All the ethics approval and red tape to jump through.

Now think of the workers, already tired and overstretched, having to learn all these new systems.

It’s hardly surprising.

There has been such dramatic change in an very short amount of time.

Alex notes that it’s very difficult to effect such change on an institutional level, and there are naturally many teething problems.

Another question that many people are asking is…

Are we nearing the end?

As other countries relax lockdown, there’s a general feeling in the UK that we’re nearing the end, especially as we’re in anticipation of an announcement from Boris.

But from a frontline worker’s perspective this is completely untrue.

Weekend 2/3rd May

I’ve witnessed Alex work flat out for six weeks already.

Right now he’s on a rotation of working 11 days straight, including long days (8am-10pm) this weekend.

He stays remarkably positive considering it’s still incredibly busy in the hospital.

Alex says,

‘If measures are slowly relaxed and normal health services begin to resume, then there’s going to a be a challenging combination of Covid and conventional patients throughout June and beyond’.

It certainly isn’t over for hospital workers.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

One long race with an outcome that is completely unknown.

I’ve probably got too much time on my own to think, but I start wondering…

Is this one huge science experiment?

If you, me and every living thing in the universe were actually just pawns in some giant scientific experiment, we would not necessarily know right now.

Is this simply someone toying with our existence? Testing the waters. Putting a spanner in our works to see how well we’ll cope. Will we sink or float?

The scary thing is that, Covid-conspiracy-theories aside.

Our living reality is one giant experiment.

Our future is all THEORY

From the perspective of a researcher, doctor (like Alex), nurse, other key worker or simply a person staying at home, we’re all experiencing something new.

And the simple truth is, we don’t yet have all the answers.

Will a vaccine be successful?

We don’t know whether a vaccine will be successful enough to erase this virus.

Although animal studies look promising, we’re beginning to test on humans just as the virus takes a downturn in the population anyway.

Hopefully, it will be as safe and effective as the smallpox vaccine that, 40 years ago, ensured the first complete eradication one of the deadliest diseases known to man.

On the other hand, its efficacy could fluctuate from year to year as it needs to be re-matched to a mutating virus….

like a moving target.

Although we can hypothesis, the truth is, we won’t probably know until next year.

Herd Immunity

We don’t know whether such as thing as herd immunity is possible with Covid-19. We may start to understand this in the future, as some countries like Sweden take a more relaxed approach, and Switzerland allow children under 10 to hug their grandparents. But even if it is achieved..

As the World Health Organisation state, with or without vaccine..

‘What we don’t yet know is the level of protection or how long it will last.”

Studies suggest that the sickest people will develop the strongest antibody defence.

But this could only be enough to see them through this Season.

There are rare instances of reinfection reported, but with no concrete evidence – there’s still a lot that experts (like my husband) don’t know for sure.

What about Facemasks?

Another theory waiting to be tested.

We don’t know whether wearing facemasks could have prevented us being one of the worst hit countries.

Certainly, many Asian people have seen horrors far more distressing than ours, and they believe that masks are beneficial.

First detected in Singapore, the Asian Flu of 1957, and subsequent Hong Kong Flu of 1968 collectively killed over 2 million people.

Then there was SARS in China in 2002. Another stain of coronavirus mutated from animals to infect humans.

Over the years it has become part of Asian culture to wear facemasks in public.

In fact, through observational evidence, health experts there recommend wearing them to help prevent spread.

Although not yet scientifically validated, are their real-life experiences not compelling enough?

For perspective, if we look back in history, it is only 150 years since we realised the important of handwashing. A simple practice that was initially laughed at but went on to revolutionise the medical world, saving thousands of lives.

Sometimes the simplest things are the best.

How about vitamins?

We also don’t yet fully know the extent to which natural therapies could play a part in a solution.

Certainly, there are some interesting clinical trials going on in China, Italy and USA giving IV vitamin C and other nutrients in synergy with certain drugs and hospital treatments.

Although preliminary results are incredibly promising, the studies are ongoing and the final results won’t be made available until the end of September.

In truth…. WHO KNOWS?

As a novel disease, we have much to learn about Covid-19.

Science is a work in progress, we don’t and may never have all the answers.

I certainly don’t know how long we’ll endure its effects. I don’t know what will happen in the weeks, months and years to come.

I simply don’t know.

What I do know is that there’s a huge likelihood (as GP Dr Luke says) that life will never be the same again.

And if that’s the case, then like researchers, I want to learn something from all of this too.

Personally….

I’m going to take this time to figure out if there is anything we can do to prepare for the future.

Especially as, looking back in history, there is a strong likelihood of a ‘next time’.

Our Community

I’m learning that a crisis can help us become a close-knit community once again. Joining together to take care of the elderly and vulnerable.

I’ve witnessed people getting to know their neighbours for the very first time as they stand on the doorstep clapping in unity.

The Solidarity

I’m appreciating the gestures of kindness. The stepping aside instead of pushing past. The nod of gratitude.

I’m learning that we can connect with others despite the barriers.

For the eyes smile even when you are wearing a face mask.

Friends and Family

I’m learning that we can find many creative ways to stay connected to our friends and family.

An online quiz, a zoom yoga session and dance party, a group cookery lesson followed by the virtual sharing of a meal.

Distance doesn’t need to separate us.

Our Environment

I’m learning to slow down and value simplicity.

The ‘micro pleasures’ in life.

A snail crossing our patio or an army of ants taking some food to their home. Our daily walk around the block past a pond means the children are seeing tadpoles turn into frogs before their very eyes.

Our Planet

Being cooped up at home has taught me to value our freedom. But I’m also learning not to take for granted our awe-inspiring planet and its delicate biosphere, which we have all neglected for far too long.

With the visible impact lockdown has had on global warming, I’m learning to think twice about using the car or travelling abroad in the future.

Our Health

I’m also learning to have greater respect for my body. To continue to try and establish a general state of wellbeing for myself and my family.

To not take my health for granted.

Alex is turning the BIG 4 0 in a few weeks time. Yes yes…mine was a few years ago.

Will it be a lockdown birthday I wonder?

With this in mind, I’m more passionate than ever about cooking healthy food, ensuring quality sleep, daily exercise and finding ways to keep resilient and positive.

For the health of the body may be the key to getting through a possible next time. (more on this soon)

Our NHS

Finally, I’m learning a greater appreciation and respect for our NHS. Including my husband and all the staff who work so hard.

I’m learning to use it wisely.

To protect its existence by finding ways to support it.

Because you never know, I may be the one who needs it in the future.

Ultimately, I’m learning to value my life, my precious time on this earth.

What about you?

Is there anything you’ve learned from this experience?

Together, I hope we can look forward to a healthier more connected future.

Monday – Thursday 4-7th May

Somehow we manage to get through the weekend without Alex.

It’s never easy, but we survive.

We hold onto the welcoming thought of the coming bank holiday in our mind.

We spend time planning what we’ll do together.

Glad that the weather forecast is looking good.

Next Time

Next time I report, we’ll be easing our way out of lockdown.

Until then, stay well.

Published by carolinementzer

Caroline Mentzer is a Nutritional Therapist, Herbalist and Writer from Oxford, UK. Married to and Infectious Disease doctor, her blog discusses the benefits of combining holistic and conventional approaches to find unique solutions to many health and parenting challenges.

4 thoughts on “Diary of a Doctor – Chapter 5 – It’s Not Over Yet

  1. We are definitely valuing our health at the moment, especially without all the bugs that came with our daughter being at nursery. I don’t think the kids have looked healthier! Now with the prospect of my D returning to nursery I find myself thinking of ways to boost her immune system, as well as ours, ready for that first week of exposure after being in lockdown for so long. Not only against Covid-19 but all the general bugs that might be.

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    1. Totally! I think it’s really important to focus on health, now more than ever. I’ll be posting ways to boost our immunity in general over the next week as lockdown eases and kids slowly get back to school.

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  2. Thank you for your wonderful blogs! They are so true and keeping me sane! Things are starting to open up here in Florida & I am so fearful that people will be stupid & we will get another wave of this dredful sickness. I hope not! Love to all. Maybe some day we will get to see each other again!

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    1. I know, I think we’re definitely due another surge unfortunately. All this lockdown is certainly making us day dream about past holidays in California. Good memories. Here’s to making more in the future.

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