In another life I think I could have been quite blasé about the coronavirus. It’s just like the flu, why should that stop me from going to the pub? Why should I stop living my life?
Well now I know just how the severe consequences are of this disease spreading through society. My medical team spelt out the risks in black and white. I was told if I do get the virus, the likelihood is that I will end up on a lung ventilator and never get off it. With MND once you stop using a muscle, you basically never get it back. So if you rely on a ventilator to breathe, you will never regain the strength to breathe for yourself again. And from there you are in a very bad place.
That means lockdown for me and my family for what could be months. We are very lucky. On our farm, I have a variety of tasks, like feeding the sheep, to keep me busy. Most importantly, I have access to fresh air and have a safe place to stretch my legs.
Just before things got really hairy I ordered a new go-kart to get me around the farm as I’m no longer all that steady on the quad bike. In truth it is a bit of a boy-toy, but I got the Good Lady’s permission. I also got my wee mate Gary Armstrong to come out and put some new latches on the gates so I can get in and out by myself. That allows me to go out and feed the sheep by myself.
Having that sense of freedom and independence is really important, but I’m fully aware of how privileged I am. There will be lots of MND sufferers who don’t have those luxuries. Your home can become a prison if you feel you can’t escape from it. I know there will be lots of people feeling very lonely and I just hope the MND community and wider society can do what they can to reach out to those people who are all by themselves. One phone call can make all the difference.
Obviously there are a lot of things that I can no longer do such as my swimming and chiropractor sessions which are really important for my health in keeping my muscles active. However, if I catch the virus there would no health for those guys to look after. It is also a big shame that a lot of the MND research we had invested so much money in has been put on hold.
Probably the toughest thing is that there are no more parties to attend until at least the end of April.
One of the main reasons I have done so well was that I always had an event to look forward to. It gave me a purpose and a reason to get out of bed in the morning. We are still organising my birthday party in July and hoping to follow Scotland to South Africa in the summer so that’s the one in the back of my head at the moment.
Hopefully that tour will still go ahead and my wife and I will still be on speaking terms. I know I am not the easiest person to live with, especially now that I am bottled up. Still we are stocked up with Guinness and red wine so if we can’t attend any parties, we will have to create our own indoors.
Obviously there are lot of legitimate reasons to feel down about what’s happening. You only have to see the pictures of empty shelves because of panic buying or hear stories of businesses laying off all their employees to see the worst in human nature. But I honestly believe for every act of selfishness there are far more acts of generosity and kindness. Those images might not always make the news, but you hear of them. The young kid picking up groceries for an elderly neighbours, the communities rallying around local businesses. Those are the things I hope people remember when this is all over.
We all have a responsibility to do the right thing. For people like myself who are classified as vulnerable and those over 70 the choice might be made for them to stay indoors. We understand the severity that if we get this thing then we are going to be in a bit of bother.
Younger people may think they are invincible but they are just as responsible for the spread of the disease. Going to the pub, while they are open, might make no difference to you, but it could lead to many more people getting the virus, whether directly or indirectly, and some of those might not have the strength to fight it off. Like with a rugby team, we can only win this fight if we work as a collective. There is no other way. Stay safe everyone.