First Hand Observations/Good Advice

 

My friend fell ill on or about 12th March. Her best friend also fell ill at that time. I am in direct contact with my friend, let's call her Susan. The second lady I only hear about 3rd hand.

Both ladies live in Buckingham/Maids Moreton. They are retired, active, belong to clubs etc. They don't travel very far but are out and about. They probably picked up Coronavirus locally and they and others have unwittingly spread it locally.

I was shocked to receive a desperate email from Susan during the night of 19th. She was telling me her friend had been admitted to MK hospital and they had both been ill in a flu like way for more than a week.  I heard the barking cough when speaking on the phone to Susan the next day. Obviously very ill.

From what I can tell the NHS process is this:

  • Patient has to convince 111 service that they are in absolute dire need. If you aren't extremely breathless, they persuade you to stay home.
  • I think for one lady a paramedic came to do an assessment but for another the ambulance came out directly.
  • When my friend phoned me to say the ambulance is coming for me, I hurriedly passed her my full details via WhatsApp. She has no family, she needed someone to give as next of kin.
  • On arrival at hospital, there is a rapid series of tests. Blood, chest Xray, examination by doctor.  The chest Xray and breathing ability are considered. Susan was told, your lungs are congested but as you can breathe unaided you are safer at home. Chilling truth.
  • Ambulance delivered Susan home. I estimate she was at hospital 90 minutes, bish bash bosh. I have never heard of ambulance returning patients home. I believe this is happening to keep the patient isolated and because they are too poorly to travel by car. I believe Susan would normally have been admitted but the admission criteria is very high. Ventilators are all they have to offer. If you don't need a ventilator, go home.
  • Ambulance also delivered her friend home. The other lady was in hospital 7 days and remains extremely poorly. Her daughter is caring for her.
  • Both ladies suffering severe debilitating nausea. Both ladies received prescription for anti- nausea tablets. Make provision at home, get travel sickness pills.
  • Susan's friend's house was sealed for a number of days (I've lost track could have been 5 days) No-one was allowed to enter for any reason in case of infection.

Observations:

Get people ready to think they might need to be admitted to hospital. Susan's friend took nothing with her for emergency admission and was then distressed because she had no underwear with her.

Prepare a little bag:

·         Some old underwear (can be binned).

·         Basic toiletries

·         Basic clothing

·         Phone (if have one)

·         Phone charger (if have one)

·         Bit of money £5 ish?

·         The full details of their next of kin and a few other close contacts clearly written on a piece of paper. Print this if possible.

·         Your own details, name, address, dob, normal medications clearly written on piece of paper. Print this if possible.

Get everyone, especially the elderly, to learn their mobile phone number off by heart so they can recite it in a crisis.

Get everyone trying to use their mobile every day. Chit chat with friends doesn't come easy to older people. Can they please just do some every day to stay in touch and remind themselves how the mobile works. Susan has a mobile but was not particularly proficient and was very ill. Made it so hard to keep in touch. Her friend likewise and didn't take a charger with her.

Older people (me included) were/are reluctant to share their mobile number amongst friends, neighbours.  If they can be persuaded to share their numbers more widely, so much easier to track and keep in touch in crisis for themselves and their friends. We have to pull together.

Susan has a cat. When she said the ambulance was coming for her, I thought to say 'Put the cat out'. I couldn't imagine how to cope with a cat trapped in a house no-one can enter. What are people supposed to do with their pets in emergency (I don't know)?

I had assumed a particular neighbour of Susan's would have a key to her house. When I spoke to that person he said, no he didn't but he believed Susan had contacted another neighbour. It seems Susan left her house key outside her door for one of her neighbours to collect for safe keeping. I was then frantic about this neighbour, would they have touched her house key. Luckily they had realised the key was suspect and they treated it carefully and had no intention of entering her house to check the fridge (for instance).

The tests took 1 week to process. So bear in mind the published figures are 1 week out of date.

Practical things to say to someone in crisis:

Do you have a mobile phone? Take it with you. What is its number?
Who else needs to know you are going into hospital?
Who has a key for your house? What is their phone number?
Do you know which hospital you are going to?
Do you have pets? Where are your pets?
Get well soon.

Sue Fox, 30/03/2020