The global health crisis has prompted huge changes to people’s lives. This rings particularly true for those over seventy, as well as those living with chronic health conditions who are at higher risk of serious illness if they do contract coronavirus.
Because I live with severe asthma, accessing healthcare services and attending various face to face appointments with lots of different teams is a big part of my life.
Adjusting my healthcare routine around COVID-19
So when the news of the pandemic broke, the first thing I wanted to manage was my medication arrangements. Due to the complications of severe asthma, I have to take a number of medications. My local pharmacist usually sorts this out for me and I pick it up on a weekly basis. Shielding meant this was not possible.
Instead of picking up prescriptions myself, I asked a family member to pick them up for me. This was a huge help as it meant I didn’t have to expose myself every week in order to pick up my medication. Even though the pharmacy can deliver medication to your door, you are still being exposed to someone who may have the virus, and even more so if you need regularly deliveries of medication. So for me, this was the best solution and one less point of contact I didn’t have to worry about.
Scheduling routine appointments
The next issue was my regular blood tests. I get my bloods done every month to check on certain drug levels. The results have been a bit inconsistent recently, so my consultant didn’t want me to go for a long period of time without a blood test. To try and protect me, we compromised and decided that I’d get tested every six weeks, instead of every four weeks.
Accessing healthcare online or over the phone
The last (and what I felt was the biggest task) was to sort out all my appointments. I had the following appointments consider:
- Respiratory Consultant
- Respiratory Physiotherapy
- Neurological Physiotherapy
- Nerve Conduction Test
- Psychological Medicine
- Neuro-Ophthalmology Consultant
- Allergy and Immunology Clinic
I thought I had my work cut out to try and reschedule all of these, however I was pleasantly surprised.
Most of my appointments were rescheduled to later in the year and those that were more pressing, such as respiratory and allergy appointments, were done over the phone or via email. Even though I couldn’t physically see my consultants, I could still send in pictures of the reactions I was having.
I was really amazed how organised the NHS have been with the appointment system and also how positive the experience of having my clinic appointments by phone was. I was worried that the consultations would go very quickly and that I wouldn’t have a chance to really say how things were, but that was not the case.
Managing the fear of an asthma attack
One thing that I felt I couldn’t prepare for was an emergency. I am terrified of getting unwell and having an asthma attack that requires me to go to hospital. I am terrified of catching coronavirus so while I am shielding, I feel relatively safe.
Going to hospital however – even before coronavirus – was a risky place to be for me. It is not unusual for me to be on a ward and have an allergic reaction to something that sets my asthma off and results in me being admitted to HDU (a high dependency unit). Adding coronavirus into the mix just makes the whole thing a much scarier place.
What has helped me from worrying about the possibility of being admitted to hospital was a conversation with my consultant, who reassured me that I would not be put at risk. He shared the following with me:
- I would be screened and if it was only an asthma attack, I wouldn’t be put in the same part of the hospital as the coronavirus patients.
- If I were admitted while shielding, I would be isolated in a side room.
- Staff would minimise contact with me where possible to protect me from the virus.
- If I had to leave my hospital room for any reason, I would wear a face covering.
These points did reassure me and helped to put my mind at ease, if only a little. I am still terrified of having an asthma attack and getting an infection that puts me in the coronavirus part of the hospital, because I have such a low immune system and am certain I would get it.
Although these are real concerns, what I have come to learn is that we, as a group of chronically ill patients, need to do what we can to protect ourselves. No one else can do it for us, but if we ensure to act promptly when we get ill and access the right advice, we can avoid putting ourselves at any unnecessary risks.
UK/MED/20/0194 June 2020