There is a lot going on in the world right now. Many people are finding themselves trapped in a new and scary place: isolation. Social distancing. Quarantine.
These words often have scary connotations. I’ve seen many people panic at the mere mention of them. Isolation? But how will I get anything done? A phrase I see and hear a lot as well is “I’m healthy, I will be fine. It’s just like a bad cold.”
Well, not everyone will be fine. This new strain of virus has a lot of people scared. For most of us in the Special Needs community, this is our normal. This time of year (usually October through April) finds many of us in the community in isolation already. A common cold can land our children in the hospital. The flu? RSV? Hello PICU.
We have been called paranoid, overly protective, and other names for taking what is seen as extreme precautions to protect our children. We keep hand sanitizer in every room of our house and by every entrance. Visitors are limited. Trips outside the house usually only mean going to doctor appointments. We wash our hands more times in a single day than we can count. We bleach everything that may have been touched, or breathed on, or looked at! We do this to protect our children.
The biggest difference for my family, personally, right now is the lack of resources due to the general population’s panic response. This has caused even more challenges than most years. This time of year is never easy, but this year is different. We used to be able to count on doctor offices being clean, sterile, and with the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) for the providers to be safe as well as our children. This is no longer the case. Hospitals are running out of masks. Nurses are having to improvise. More people are put at risk because of this. If our children even get hurt, can we take them in? Is an injury worth risking exposure to a life threatening illness?
If our daughter has an asthma attack, can we trust that the hospital will have enough PPE to protect her from a virus? Her lungs are weak. Our children’s immune systems are not strong. We are currently having to weigh the risks of going to any appointment. My husband has to be the one to go out and do the shopping as he has the strongest immune system. However he takes every precaution every time he leaves the house, and every precaution when he returns.
We have appointments coming up in the near future and we have to look at each one with an honest risk assessment. How important is this visit? How hard will it be to reschedule? Will missing it cause complications for our child? We have medications that need to be picked up from pharmacies. These medications are necessary. What time of day would we possibly run into the least amount of people? These are our worries. This is our life.
So many people are shrugging off the very serious implications of being a carrier of this virus. Sure, you might be fine, but we won’t. Our doctors and nurses across the country are exposing themselves to this day in and day out. They may infect someone because they don’t have the proper PPE. Special Needs families are struggling to get supplies from our Durable Medical Equipment (DME) companies because of shortages across the country. The Special Needs community has come together and people are freely sharing any excess supplies they may have to help a family in need. These supplies are not for convenience, but for survival.
Isolation can make you stir crazy. Find a hobby. Tell stories with your children. Read a book. Take this time to teach them the importance of hygiene and the why behind it all. Knowledge is power. Ignorance leads to fear. Children understand so much more than we give them credit for. Turn this scary situation into a positive one. Believe me, you can do this. We do it every year!
Most importantly, be kind to one another. Teach our children to be prepared, wisely. Stocking up for 30 days at a time is not a bad thing. It is not necessary to stock up for a year or more. Share your excess with those in need. Someone near you is elderly, sick, or immunocompromised. Make a care package for them. Save them the risk of having to go out and get exposed. Show kindness. Let our children remember that kindness and community when this is all over.
Every year our family does this. For 10 years now we’ve learned how to safely isolate and quarantine ourselves, for the safety of our children. You can do this. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that this, too, shall pass.