A TALE OF SHIELDING DURING COVID-19   by MARK

When I received the first of several letters and text messages on the 21st March 2020, I was already shielding, as I was actually really unwell, and off work. Indeed, I had actually been taken to my own renal unit by paramedics on Monday 16th March, after I had to ring NHS 111 for advice – yes you have guessed it, I thought I had COVID…..

After being examined by one of the renal Consultants at Royal Stoke, and bloods taken by one of the amazing transplant nurses (thanks Gail), I was advised to go back home, get plenty of rest and keep hydrated. I wasn’t actually tested for COVID as I presented at the renal unit with no temperature. It appeared I just had a nasty infection.

After more blood tests at a local walk-in centre (which had already been made into an appointment only centre), where I pitched up wearing mask and gloves, I had to physically attend my own transplant clinic at Royal Stoke at the end of March. I was nervous about this – but was reassured when I arrived in the waiting room to see only 2 other patients waiting. When I got called through to see Dr Kerry Tomlinson, she was wearing PPE. After examining me (the first time in a while that she has had to do that on me !), I was advised to get some other medication prescribed by my GP for the pain I was still in due to the infection I had, and was sent back home feeling a lot more positive and upbeat about things. I started back to work immediately. A couple of weeks later and I thankfully felt a lot better and both the infection and the pain was gone.

I have been one of the lucky transplanted patients in the UK regarding information on this pandemic– I have received 2 letters from my renal Consultant at Royal Stoke, a letter from NHS England and also would you believe a letter from the Department of Health & Social Care !

Furthermore, I have also received several text messages from the Government with advice on coronavirus and shielding, the first of these being on Monday 23rd March 2020. I have to say though, whilst these text messages have been helpful in the main, many of them have been badly worded, and have given rise to a lot of worry and anxiety among other fellow kidney patients.

Me and my partner Claire have been able to get our shopping delivered on a weekly basis for free by one of the big National supermarket chains with no issues (apart from some items being missing from what we had ordered, but it is hardly a big issue !) This slot is guaranteed for several more months yet.

We have also accessed the National volunteers service to collect our prescriptions from our local pharmacy and deliver them to our property with no problems encountered at all.

We have even had the free food parcels delivered for several weeks – but as we don’t need them, I have an agreement with a local counsellor, who collects the parcel each week and distributes it to needy families in my local area.

As I work for a National Kidney Charity, and am based working from home, “lockdown” has not affected myself with being able to work full-time. Obviously I am unable to attend any meetings or visit any renal units in the UK, but the vast majority of these meetings have either been postponed, or are now being held via Zoom or Microsoft Teams online. I am lucky to have the full support of an employer though regarding the need for me to shield, as I am sure this will be an issue for many patients going forward with their employers, when shielding restrictions are relaxed.

We have seen a big increase in calls to the NKF Helpline from concerned and worried patients and carers – and I have been assisting my colleagues Pauline and Stephen with these calls as and when required.

I do feel lucky that I have been dealing with “lockdown” very well mentally – being able to work is helping me massively, and in my downtime I have rediscovered my love of listening to various music which is also a real boon for me. I have also been out of the house for several walks – either very early in the morning or late at night, so I have not actually “bumped” into anyone. Furthermore, me and my partner have gone for a few drives into the countryside, just to see some different scenery and for a break from the norm. We also are extremely lucky to have a small garden that we have been able to enjoy during the recent good weather. 

Looking forward, none of us of course really know what the future holds for us deemed to be “extremely vulnerable” with regards to COVID. Who really knows when or indeed if a vaccine will be found that is suitable for us to use ? So we must try and remain as positive thinking and upbeat as possible. As one patient I know has already advised in another blog on the NKF website, if you need clarification always contact your own renal team, because they will know your own personal situation better than almost anyone else.

Keep safe, keep smiling, and my very best wishes to you all

 

Mark