Scottish woman tells of coronavirus self-isolation nightmare
Josie Balfour told of her struggle as her condition deteriorated over the course of 10 days, having being told to self-isolate 'immediately' after receiving a call from her local GP surgery telling her not to attend her appointment.
Josie, who has a young daughter and is asthmatic fell ill with a chest infection and describes how family life was turned on its head during her period of quarantine.
She provided her own brief biography to accompany the blog.
It reads: Josie Balfour is an Edinburgh based freelance journalist and copy writer with a stock pile of chocolate. Her husband has hidden the kitchen knives until the COVID19 crisis is over.
I’m concerned I’m going to kill my husband. Not by giving him COVID-19 but because he won’t give up the running commentary on my chocolate consumption he’s kept up for the past 10 days.
We’ve been in isolation on and off for a fortnight so far, my husband with a bad cold and me with a chest infection. Because he hasn’t had to seek medical help, he hasn’t been advised to self isolate. I, on the other hand, have.
It’s a blessing that he’s not properly self-isolated because otherwise I wouldn’t have had anyone to pick up prescriptions, do the school run or go to the supermarket.
And therein lies the problem with self-isolation, who does the errands? How do you avoid contamination? Should we as a family have all
self-isolated at the same time? Would it be fair to ask friends and family to help out and risk contamination themselves?
We have elderly neighbours, two friends who are seriously immunocompromised and family that are all too far away to lend a hand, none of these people deserve to get a virus that is almost 20 times more deadly than seasonal flu (death rates because of flu are on average 0.07 per cent and COVID19 is anywhere between 1 and 5 per cent depending on the country) .
It doesn’t seem like the government have given any proper guidelines on this at all. It was only on Friday the 13th of March, 11 days after I was first advised to self- isolate, that the UK government released proper guidelines.
We’re very lucky because, in an effort to reduce plastic waste and food miles, we get regular deliveries to our door of milk, bread, a veg box and eggs. We never see the milkman or the veg box delivery person but we do have a fresh supply of local food. Its been an absolute godsend this week and seems sustainable enough to keep going even if supermarket suppliers have issues as the COVID-19 situation gets worse.
As a family, our biggest concern is how our local community is going to cope over the next few months. We’re doing our best to stay home because we don’t want to spread our germs at school, at the doctor’s surgery, in the local cafe or to neighbours. At the same time, however, we’re better prepared to weather this storm than some of our more vulnerable neighbours and to isolate completely from them for longer than necessary means we won't be able to help them out or support local businesses.
Just yesterday, my husband came home from work with the news that his office was closing until the end of the month and he would be working from home. Staff have been advised to self isolate even though nobody in the office has been infected with coronavirus. It’s the responsible thing to do, even if it means I have to put up with my husband judging my ever dwindling emergency stock pile of chocolate on a daily basis.
10 days of isolation
Mon 2nd March
I get a call from my local doctor’s surgery telling me not to attend my appointment. Instead, the doctor calls me. I get a week of antibiotics and five days of oral steroids - standard treatment for an asthmatic with a chest infection. I’m told to self isolate immediately and to get someone else to pick up my prescription. The wait at the chemist is twice the usual time and the staff seem harassed.
Tue 3rd March
I’m sick but not that sick. I cancel everything but the school run.
Wed 4th March
I can’t breathe. I’m taking two different inhalers, alongside an oral steroid and antibiotic. It’s so bad that I can’t even climb the stairs without the need for a puff of my blue ‘reliever’ inhaler. My husband is home sick too. I worry that we should keep our daughter off school but I’m too sick to care for her.
Thur 5th of March
My breathing is worse. Quiet panic has set in about what will happen when I run out of steroids on the weekend. I don’t want to risk infecting other people but need to be seen in person. I call my doctor.
Friday 6th March
A new prescription! I am again advised to self isolate, not to visit the surgery or collect my own prescription.
Saturday 7th March
My husband braves the shops and comes home with tales of empty shelves and no painkillers.
Sunday 8th March
The antibiotics kick in, I can breathe!
The last day of antibiotics. I decide that I’m well enough to end self isolation on Tuesday.
Back to normal. I do the school run, help out at my daughter’s school and go to a house viewing.
My health deteriorates rapidly and I begin to have chest pain. I end up at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary for an outpatient appointment. I go to use the hand sanitiser that is usually by the entrance. It’s not there. In fact, I don’t see any hand sanitiser for public use. There is only one other patient in the whole waiting room. She is seen quickly after I arrive.
The doctor keeps his distance in the treatment room, our chairs are two metres apart and he coughs towards his computer monitor rather than at me, I do the same in return. He examines my ears and the back of my chest but not my throat. I get a second antibiotic prescription but I can tell that he’s seriously considering taking further action.
The discomfort in my chest has increased. My doctor advises, by phone, that the next step is an X-ray at the Western and possibly a COVID19 test. I decide to give the antibiotics more time to work. My husband comes home with the news that his work has closed until the end of the month with all staff advised to self isolate, even though there are no known cases in his office.
Friday the 13th
Waiting for the antibiotics to work was the right choice. I finally feel human again. I break self isolation to do the school run and get a haircut. I don’t want my self-employed hairdresser to lose work but, equally, I don’t want to be the person who gives her an illness. It’s a difficult choice to make.