I made the decision to self isolate way before the government suggested I should.
I was born with a genetic condition called Osteogenesis Imperfecta, which prevents the body from producing a type of collagen. It mainly affects my bones, but it also impacts my lung function. I also only have 50 per cent lung capacity due to severe scoliosis.
The combination of these two conditions, mixed with coronavirus, would most certainly spell disaster.
A few years ago I was on a ventilator fighting for my life – much like those in intensive care fighting coronavirus currently – and I would do anything to stop myself ending up there again.
I had developed sepsis from an undiagnosed bout of pneumonia; one moment I was in the shower, the next I couldn’t breathe.
I remember asking the paramedic if I was going to die, sat in the back of the ambulance, and he just looked at me, not wanting to give me an answer.
When I got to A&E the nurses and doctors were rushing around. A nurse tried to take me for an x-ray and I had to tell her ‘Please no, I can’t breathe’. Then all I saw was black.
I’d had a seizure and stopped breathing. I was resuscitated and put into an induced coma; I was on a ventilator that was breathing for me.
I’ve had over 200 broken bones in my life, but not being able to breathe was the most terrifying thing I’ve been through.
My family had been told to plan for the worst. I was 29 years old and pneumonia nearly killed me.
Coronavirus can cause pneumonia and, as a high risk person, I want to urge everyone to stay home if it is not essential for them to be out. You may not have symptoms but you can still be a carrier so it is important you follow and observe all the measures the government is putting in place.
My life is worth more than just being reduced to collateral damage
While Boris Johnson and his advisors are now addressing the protection of those who are high risk by telling 1.5million people to self-isolate for 12 weeks, they are still not going far enough to help us.
Disabled people have already struggled to access food and medication. The government has now said they will set up aid delivery for the vulnerable but they’ve not been clear on the semantics.
There is also the matter of how we are supposed to self isolate when we rely on others for care. I have a personal assistant who is doing her utmost to protect me and those she cares for with Alzheimer’s by wearing a mask in public, but she still has to go out and I still have to come into contact with her, even though I shouldn’t be seeing anyone.
While I have found the measures put in place to protect us disappointing, I have found the language used to talk about those of us who are high risk absolutely disgusting.
When cases started breaking out in the UK, I would turn on the news and hear: ‘Only a small section of society are vulnerable’ and ‘It’s only fatal to a small percentage of the population’.
Excuse me for a second, but how are you supposed to feel if you’re part of that ‘small percentage’?
My life is worth more than just being reduced to collateral damage.
What we desperately need right now is unity and an understanding that we are in this together
It is this narrative that subconsciously ranks the value of certain people’s lives above others that has led to people feeling that they can still go about their lives like normal.
We’ve all seen pictures of the busy Tubes each morning and I saw people taking no notice of the social distancing rule this weekend by going out in big groups. I hope the lockdown will put this to an end, but only time will tell.
You may not like being trapped at home but you have to remember that voluntary isolation is very much a privilege. There are millions of disabled, chronically ill or terminally unwell people that have no choice other than to stay in, away from their loved ones.
If you have no other choice but to go out, then by all means go – but do so responsibly. Keep your distance and wash your hands regularly. Aside from that, I beg you, please do not gamble with other people’s lives.
What we desperately need right now is unity and an understanding that we are in this together.
We don’t need people to panic and stockpile, while it might be our natural reflex to seeing emptying shelves. I personally would like to see people stop using online delivery slots when they can go to the shops easily; many disabled people, including myself, cannot access shops and may have reduced care.
I am sharing my personal story not to gain sympathy, not to be dramatic, but to simply put things into perspective.
We can get through this if we work together and show respect and empathy to one another. Don’t let this time drive a wedge between us.
I would like to dedicate this column to all the unsung heroes, including all the carers and personal assistants (not excluding my own amazing PA Louise) who are sacrificing their own health to safeguard those they care for.