Mon. Jul 26th, 2021

When you live with incurable blood cancer, every day in a pandemic is terrifying.

And with the country set to open up again on Monday, and the rules around wearing face masks and social distancing being scrapped, I have no choice but to go back into my own personal lockdown… or dice with death and risk leaving my children without a mum.

I first caught Covid-19 in April 2020, despite isolating myself two weeks before the rest of the UK went into lockdown. I’ve had chronic lymphocytic leukaemia since 2014, which I have my blood levels monitored closely to check I don’t need chemo if it gets worse. I knew there was a danger of being very ill if I happened to contract the virus.

How do you feel about Freedom Day? Will you still wear a mask and practise social-distancing? Let us know in the comments below

Paula Dale, who lives with a type of leukaemia, pictured before she was hospitalised last April with Covid-19
Paula Dale, who lives with a type of leukaemia, pictured before she was hospitalised last April with Covid-19
(Image: Paula Dale)

It wasn’t until I collapsed in the middle of the night that I even knew I had covid. I was blue-lighted to A&E and kept in hospital as a ‘well’ patient – but 10 days later I took a drastic turn for the worse and was intubated in ICU. The hallucinations I experienced in that coma were traumatising, and even when I came round, the loneliness and fear of being in intensive care and watching other patients in my condition get sicker and die has left me with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

I’ve also lost 70 percent of my hair and have scar tissue on my lungs that will never heal. My right lung collapsed while I was in hospital and I developed pneumonia and an air leak in my lung. Even when I left hospital I left in a wheelchair on oxygen with a chest drain. The medics say I’m unlikely to get worse – but they also doubt I’ll ever get better. I’ve worked really hard this last year to rebuild my strength but my lungs are damaged for life.

Paula was hospitalised for 102 days - 46 of which were spent in ICU - and was left with PTSD from her traumatic experience
Paula was hospitalised for 102 days – 46 of which were spent in ICU – and was left with PTSD from her traumatic experience
(Image: Paula Dale)

Which is why Boris Johnson ploughing ahead with his so-called Freedom Day on Monday July 19 makes me furious – and terrified. Cases are surging and we all know what happened after the last two lockdowns lifted. By leaving it up to the general public to wear a mask, it’s obvious that clinically vulnerable people like me will be left behind.

Boris is putting the onus back on us as individuals, and the guidance also says that extremely vulnerable people should avoid indoor spaces and those who’ve not yet been vaccinated. But you don’t go to the shop and ask ‘who’s been vaccinated and who hasn’t?’, you wouldn’t go on the bus and ask that, so actually you have no idea who it’s safe to mingle with. I really going to have to consider every single thing that I do, and the people who I come into contact with.

Even now if I go into a shop, I’ll be wearing a mask, the shopkeeper will be wearing a mask, but you’ll see people coming in and out not wearing one. And having been through what I’ve been through and having had a horrific experience, I would encourage everybody to continue to social distance and to wear a mask. I don’t think that’s an unreasonable request.

Paula's hair before her covid battle
Paula’s hair before her covid battle
(Image: Paula Dale)
As the coronavirus ripped through her body, Paula was left with 70 percent hair loss
As the coronavirus ripped through her body, Paula was left with 70 percent hair loss
(Image: Paula Dale)

I recognise it’s a very delicate thing to balance – reopening the country and keeping people safe – but the medics themselves have said there’s a considerable uncertainty as to how it’s going to play out in the coming weeks. I think it’s totally unconscionable that there’s no guarantee of my safety. And that’s why it’s either total lockdown or I’m taking risks.

I’ve been double-jabbed but I wouldn’t like to put that to the test, especially with the Delta variant. If I get covid again I’ve got no idea what my future holds. Quite frankly, this is like a death sentence hanging over my head.

Those who say wearing a mask infringes on their freedom – isn’t it worth wearing a mask and knowing you’re not going to inadvertently send someone to ICU to have an experience like mine?

It’s been a very long, hard, tough journey, I’ve experienced a lot of things. I only hope other families don’t have to go through what mine have.

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