A New Life in the Middle of a Pandemic

Right now, as we know it, the world has come to a bit of a standstill as the whole world comes together to fight the Coronavirus pandemic. I don’t think any of us could have prepared ourselves for what was to come and I’m in absolute awe and admiration of the key workers who are risking their lives every day to save others.

Despite the awful tragedies of lives lost and families broken apart, it’s been wonderful to see human beings and communities come together every day to help one another out, from clapping for the NHS workers to offering to get an elderly neighbour’s shopping for them. It reminds  you that most humans have an innate kindness and longing to help.

Of course, there’s never a right or wrong time for something like a pandemic to take place. It’s always heartbreaking and tragic. I have to keep reminding myself that I’m lucky that I haven’t lost anyone close to me from this awful virus and that I can still continue working while others have lost their job or been affected financially. The only strange thing for me is that I moved to a new city and started a new job just a few days before the UK lock down was put in place. It’s safe to say that it’s not quite been the fresh new start that I was so excited about! I ended up going into my new office for just two days before I was told to work from home, so I haven’t even met most of my new colleagues. The people I now spend all my time indoors with at home are people I’ve known only for a month. The only scenery I’ve seen since my move to Manchester is a couple of nearby streets and parks. Right now, it still doesn’t quite feel like my real life.

However, I imagine this is the case worldwide, as we’ve all had to get accustomed to a new way of living and working. It’s strange to think how normal it has become to queue to get into supermarkets and to keep a 2-metre distance from strangers at all times. It now feels normal to wander down deserted streets that resemble a ghost town, and it’s starting to feel hard to remember how lively pubs and restaurants used to look. Yet for some people in other countries, this level of restriction is a normality. If anything, this pandemic has reinforced how lucky I am to live where I do with the freedom I usually have. It’s made me angry to see people disregard the importance of following some simple instructions that will literally save lives. We’ve become so used to living a life of luxury in the UK that we see our own enjoyment as being more important than the lives of strangers. Yes it’s a shame that we can’t enjoy a sunny bank holiday weekend in pub gardens with a group of mates or on holiday, but the true shame is the slow measures we’ve taken as a country to protect people. The true shame is the lack of PPE to protect key workers. And the real heartbreak is the families who haven’t been able to say goodbye to their loved ones.

Yet we’ve seeing resilience. We’re seeing volunteers and retired NHS workers coming together to save lives. We’re seeing young teenagers putting together care packages for their vulnerable neighbours. We’re seeing people touch hands with their loved ones through windows. We’re seeing huge fundraisers to raise money for the NHS. We’re seeing individuals create protective masks for NHS workers who are lacking PPE. We’re seeing millions of people around the UK clapping and cheering outside their doors at 8pm every Thursday. We’re seeing the NHS finally getting the recognition it deserves. We’re seeing harmony and unity across the world.

I feel lucky right now. I could have felt lonely and sorry for myself, especially being in a new city and unable to visit my family. Yet I know I’m so lucky that this will only be my life for a few months. We all need to remember how lucky some of us are right now. And while we are sadly still going to lose more lives from this heartbreaking virus, we will still get through it as a country and as a human race. I’ve seen such a sense of community over the last few weeks, and I hope that we all learn something from this tragedy. I hope we all continue to remember those who have helped us in this trying times, and we become appreciate of all the wonderful things that have always been right in front of us. See you all on the other side.

My Response to Farage’s Thoughts on the NHS

In 2012, a video was leaked staring UKIP leader Nigel Farage telling UKIP supports his views on the NHS and UK healthcare. He is quoted to say “I think we are going to have to move to an insurance-based system of healthcare. Frankly, I would feel more comfortable that my money would return value if I was able to do that through the marketplace of an insurance company, than just us trustingly giving £100bn a year to central government and expecting them to organise the healthcare service from cradle to grave for us.” (The Independent).

The belief that the UK would benefit from a privatized healthcare system is extremely problematic. A minority of UK citizens may have had the fortune of never having needed to use the NHS for any long-term illness, suffered by themselves or close friends or family. I on the other hand, have had experience with the NHS and all their valuable services for the majority of my life. When I was 10, my mother died of breast cancer at 47 years old, having battled with the disease on and off for several years. At one point, we were even told that she was clear of cancer, before it sadly returned and tragically took her life. Throughout her years suffering with cancer, I distinctly remember numerous trips to Nottingham City Hospital, where she often had to spend a few nights or get chemotherapy treatment. As well as the upsetting memories I possess of her in hospital, I also have memories of caring, wonderful staff, who my mother was always fond of. My family have always struggled to meet ends financially, but through the NHS we were rewarded with a few extra years to spend with my mum, even enjoying fantastic holidays to Spain and Cyprus when her cancer was in its better stages. Without the NHS, it’s likely that we would have lost her a lot sooner due to the cost of health insurance and treatment.

Ten years later, and I’ve now been revisiting the same hospital, where my dad has been recovering from a stroke he had on Christmas Eve. Yet again, the staff have been incredible. Despite having to work on Christmas Day, the staff at the hospital were friendly and cheerful, supplying the patients with a Christmas-style dinner and crackers (much to our delight) to keep everyone’s spirits up. The hospital even featured a ‘League of Friends’ who delivered presents to the patients; my dad received aftershave, a tie and a Christmas card! This gesture may sound like a small one, but for my family, who had all our Christmas plans sadly disrupted, it really meant a lot knowing that the staff were going out of their way to look after my dad. During the time my dad has spent at the hospital, he has made countless friends with the staff, including a favourite nurse who puts up with his repeated jokes, and his physio. His physio even took the time to find myself and my dad’s partner to show us how we could perform a massage on my dad’s hand (which he had lost all movement and feeling in) to help regain some movement. My dad also told me how the physio took a moment to enjoy a coffee and chocolate with him – his favourite part of the day! It’s little acts like this that make me truly realise how valuable the NHS is for many families and individuals. It is a unique part of British culture that makes me proud to be part of a nation that can help people from any background to prolong and save lives.

As well as benefiting my family greatly for the illnesses suffered by my parents, the NHS has also provided myself and my sister with mental health care. Back when we were in school, my sister and I were both diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and we both had difficulty coming to terms with our mother’s death. For this, we were offered counselling services and treatment, which has helped us both tremendously. We are both now happy and confident, and have rediscovered our love of studying, resulting in us both studying at university. Without the counselling, who knows if either of us would even have continued to stay at school, let alone enroll at university. At my university now, I am still able to see a doctor regularly for check ups on my mental well-being; something I truly value when university and family life gets stressful.

Overall, the NHS benefits the lives of countless people and families across the UK. Without it, who knows where our lives would be, or who wouldn’t even be in them. If it wasn’t for the chemotherapy my mother received, we may not have had our memorable holiday in Cyprus just before she died. If the ambulance hadn’t arrived in time for my dad, and if he wasn’t able to stay in the hospital for as long as he has, who knows what state of health he would be in now. I know that it is not just my family that is extremely grateful for the invaluable care provided for the NHS, and I only hope that this fantastic service continues, free of charge.