Trepidation, hope, heartbreak, excitement: The reality of leaving lockdown

Trepidation, hope, heartbreak, excitement: The reality of leaving lockdown

lockdown

I was supposed to be working on a Covid ward today. Instead I am home nursing a broken rib, reflecting on the hope of joy and reunion ahead sitting alongside the grief of the lives that have been lost, and what we have lost in our lives.

I am happy we are coming out of lockdown. The community has a bargain with our elected leaders: people have come out in droves to get vaccinated, each one doing so in good faith that they can one day visit their family again and enjoy a night out with friends.

Of people aged over 16, over 90% have had a first dose of vaccine and in the short time they have been eligible, almost 80% of the 12-15 year olds have had a dose of vaccine. This is better than the Doherty model ever planned for and we are already seeing a marked decrease in the rate of hospitalisations, people needing ICU and far fewer deaths than 2020.

There are fewer deaths, but there have still been deaths and the end of lockdown, with time to process, has reminded me of how sad this is.

Last year, on an aged care Covid ward, around a third of the patients died. This year, with so many older adults vaccinated and with more effective treatments, far more are recovering. Of the patients I looked after who died, this year and last year, all were elderly and most had co-morbidities.

This cold language discounts the reality that they still lost time with family, including that critical time at the end, when they were sick and couldn’t have a loved one sit with them, hold their hand and give words of comfort.

While so many people are now protected from Covid, there are still enough who are not to worry me about what the next few months hold.

The lockdown has saved lives, but it is also possible to acknowledge that many of us have some grief about what we have missed. We have lost events that we anticipate and enjoy, holidays that give a reprieve from daily stress. My daughter loves to perform, but has disengaged from her choir because she can’t bring herself to hope for a stage again. My son in grade one has missed almost a year’s worth of in-person learning at a time critical for social development. I have barely seen my nieces and nephews this year.

We all have our own personal reasons for wanting things. My husband and I are exhausted from juggling home school and work. I feel guilty at how poorly I feel I have done combining both. I am so happy to get my kids back into a classroom.

I am also in the privileged position that I feel extremely safe with my level of vaccine protection, because I have seen the data out to six months from the US, and as someone under sixty-five with no significant health problems, I know that a breakthrough infection will not land me in hospital. I know others will not feel so safe and that this time ahead will be extremely difficult.

My vaccinated ninety-two year old patient, told me ‘if it works, it works, if it doesn’t it doesn’t’. She recognises that we can’t control everything in life, and a risk free life does not exist. In this new world where we ‘live with Covid’, and move away from the fear that has been such a driver of our behaviour, each of us will adjust in our own way and in our own time.

I don’t know what will happen in the weeks to months ahead. Mathematical models are educated guesses, not crystal balls. Uncertainty about the future is uncomfortable. 

The thing that has sustained me over the difficult times in lockdown has been reflecting on what we have achieved as a community. Last year, we saved so many lives by staying home. This year we have controlled case numbers so that our hospitals are not overwhelmed and we can still help the sick while everyone eligible has rolled up their sleeve to have a vaccine.

This pandemic has been incredibly hard, but the incredible scientific developments of the vaccines shows how amazing we are as a species. When we consider equity issues, like vaccine access for diverse communities, we can do incredible things. This ability to think beyond our own selves is our superpower as a species. This is why we will continue to care for each other and safely come back together.

As I send my grade one son to another first day at school, in a uniform that he has hardly worn and is already a little too small, he hugs his Daddy and me fiercely and hesitates at the school gates. With some kindness and encouragement, he crosses through, a little uncertain but excited to be back. 

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