My thoughts on coronavirus

I’m sure by now you are fed up of reading articles and watching and listening to news bulletins about coronavirus. However with all this drama and panic I want to share my thoughts on the situation and how it affects me and others with disabilities.

How does the coronavirus affect me?

I have cerebral palsy (CP) and registered blind. I have no respiratory issues and a good immune system. Therefore I’m not concerned if I was to contract the virus. The worst I’ll get is an irritating cough and high temperature.

However on Monday, the UK government released a statement listing the kinds of conditions that are at higher risk and I was surprised to see cerebral palsy on the list. I agree people with severe forms of CP or additional underlining health conditions are considered higher risk. But for those with mild CP who can walk and are mostly independent and those with moderate CP and use mobility aids or wheelchairs, I believe they should mostly experience the same symptoms as non-disabled and healthy people.

I think the government and healthcare authorities need to be more specific on which forms of CP are at higher risk rather than just cerebral palsy as a whole.

How does the coronavirus affect other disabled people?

I have many friends and colleagues who are also disabled with underlining health conditions, respiratory issues and poor immune systems. Even just a common cold can be considered life threatening for any of them.

My friend Steph, who has Muscular Dystrophy, has already been isolating for 18 days and is already going stir crazy. On Facebook she said:

I'm starting to feel how Rapunzel did at the beginning of Tangled. Kudos to her for lasting 18 years in isolation. I have done 18 days and I'm already wanting to leave the house. Hoping for better weather to make these four months a little brighter.

Also in the government’s announcement, I was shocked to see the number of disabilities and health conditions not mentioned. It suggests this group includes those who are:

aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions) under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below (ie anyone instructed to get a flu jab as an adult each year on medical grounds): chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis chronic heart disease, such as heart failure chronic kidney disease chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), a learning disability or cerebral palsy diabetes problems with your spleen – for example, sickle cell disease or if you have had your spleen removed a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy being seriously overweight (a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above) those who are pregnant

As soon as this pandemic began, my immediate concern was for people with the following disabilities and health conditions:

  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Spinal Muscular Atrophy
  • Ataxia
  • Downs Syndrome (heart problems)

There are of course many other disabilities and conditions that are at high risk but these were the ones I would have expected to be considered in its guidelines.

I’m also slightly confused why people with learning disabilities are in this category. Unless I’m being naive – and with the exception of people with Downs Syndrome – people with learning disabilities don’t have any medical risks but just difficulties with reading, writing and communicating. Surely it would be safer for them to continue attending school and day care centres where they can be closely monitored by staff and will not disrupt their routines.

Furthermore I hate the word “vulnerable”. It sounds very patronising and makes me think of severely ill people or people who are able to move, speak or think for themselves. Can everyboody just say “people with disabilities and health conditions”?

Shoppers panic buying

As you’ve likely seen in your local supermarket and in the news, people have been panic buying for essential food, toiletries and hand sanitisers. I agree on stocking up one or two extra meals but not 10 packets of toilet roll! – it is a respiratory virus, not diarrhoea!

I’m just glad stores are starting to ration items and having designated times for the elderly and disabled to shop.

Working from home and self-isolation

Working from home and being self-isolated is pretty much the norm for me. I work from home blogging and freelance writing and the most contact for me is with my Mum and carers. It does irritate me slightly when people complain how bored they are being stuck at home. Yet they also complain when they have to go to work or school. Also remember that even prior to COVID-19, many disabled people are still isolated for many other reasons throughout the year.

I was also amazed to see a freelance journalist speak on ITV News about her concerns of not being able to earn money while self-isolating – you’re a freelance journalist! The whole point is that you can work remotely!

I understand not all jobs can be done from home so for those people, they may need to find alternative ways to keep busy, productive and entertained. My suggestions would be:

  • Chat to family and friends on social media, phone or Skype
  • Watch films and box sets
  • Computer/console games
  • Read books/audiobooks
  • Listen to podcasts
  • Read & watch blogs/vlogs
  • Cooking
  • Baking
  • Arts & crafts
  • Gardening
  • Exercise
  • Board games

My only disappointments have been that my trip to a college alumni event in London and the Naidex exhibition in Birmingham were both postponed. Plus my drama classes in Aldershot and my physio sessions have been suspended until further notice.

Final thoughts and advice

Overall I feel people just need to calm down, stop panicking and be sensible. For many disabled people with complex needs, I understand this is more worrying. If you need some advice on how to manage and cope during this difficult and uncertain time, please check out this in-depth article on Disability Horizons – Coronavirus: a practical guide if you’re disabled

In the meantime, promise me you’ll be patient, positive, safe, sensible and kind.

What are your thoughts on the coronavirus? Are you anxious or worried about your health or a loved one? Or do you think people and the media are overreacting? Share your thoughts in the comments box or social media.

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4 thoughts on “My thoughts on coronavirus

  1. I agree with most of this, except the bit about Cerebral Palsy not being a concern. I can explain:
    Although the Flu and Covid-19 are mostly respiratory illnesses, they don’t JUST affect the lungs. It’s to do with the brain too (that is why conditions like epilepsy are on that list too)

    I’ve been researching this before Covid-19’s known outbreak because I thought there shouldn’t be any reason why I should get the flu jab.

    Your body combatting temperature control and regulation is one of the side affects. My body struggles with this as it is. During winter, my left side will be fine, my right side will be too cold and it will let me know! During summer, my right side is happy, but my left feels like it is dying. Adding a fever on to this will make it 10 times harder to know which side of my body I ought to listen to.

    Additionally, many with cerebral palsy have spasms. Fever can make you shiver and cause even more spasms, and have been known to cause seizures which could affect your spin (which is why people with spin issues are on that list).

    When I have had a cold in the past, I honestly sometimes wonder if it is the flu, it is only the runny nose that tells me it isn’t the flu, and I don’t really have any breathing issues other than blocked sinuses.

    So I do understand why we are on the list. There is a greater risk of seizures and it just being generally more unpleasant for us.

    But that said, we also have our age and immunity system to help us out.

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