Lockdown Diaries: How we put our daily lives on hold

July 14 2020

A teacher and pupil at Beacon Rise school in Kingswood share their experiences of spending 12 weeks in their homes to stay safe.

Elodie Gray

HI, my name is Elodie and I’m six years old. You may remember me from when I competed at the British Transplant Games last year. Well, I was hoping I’d be able to share the fun I’d had and possibly the medals I’d won this year with you too. However, due to this nasty virus, unfortunately this year’s games have been cancelled. I’m quite sad that I won’t get to see my transplant friends and get to compete in activities my family never thought I’d get the chance to do, but being positive it means I have extra time to practise and it’s best we’re all kept safe and well, ready for next year.

So, I thought I’d share with you all a bit about how me and my family have been surviving lockdown. To start with I thought it was fab I got to stay at home watching anything I wanted on TV, playing with my toys and eating when I wanted, but then my brother and sister had to stay home from school too so I’ve had to share all those things. My mummy and daddy explained that because I was on the vulnerable list it meant they’d all have to shield me for at least 12 weeks, so I wouldn’t be able to leave the house.

It’s a very strange time; some days I feel really happy and others I feel really sad. My dad has lost three of his relatives because of the virus. It’s also hard because during this time I have been struggling a lot with tiredness, muscle pain and a funny tummy (unfortunately all a result of being poorly as a baby), so some days I’ve just had to rest. I try to watch Disney films and programmes I enjoy, but sometimes I see the news which is full of very sad things. One thing we did hear that’s positive is that the ‘Max and Kiera’s Law’ has now been passed. 

Elodie busy with school work and The Gray family (Colin, Austin, Elodie, Freya and Sarah)Elodie busy with school work and The Gray family (Colin, Austin, Elodie, Freya and Sarah)

This means the Opt Out Donor programme is now in effect in England – which is amazing for all those waiting to receive a life changing gift like I was. Sometimes I ask my mummy and daddy about how I got my new heart and the little girl that gave me hers. I know she lives in heaven and it is very sad. I wish I could say thank you, but we celebrate her memory every year and I’ll never forget my heart hero and her brave family.

I normally attend lots of different appointments to check my heart and tummy as well as other things, but most of these have been cancelled because I’ve not been allowed out. The one time I did have to go to the hospital, I made sure I wore my mask and kept my hands clean. The nurses and doctors were amazing and made sure I was kept very safe. I also have a community nurse, so when she came to take my bloods, it was hard as only daddy was allowed in the room with me and my mummy, sister and brother had to stay in a separate room which I found quite upsetting.

Everyone has been so kind and helpful to me and my family. We’ve had lots of help with people bringing us things we need, and I’ve even had food and activity parcels sent. It’s amazing how everyone pulls together and it’s really helping us all to keep safe and occupied. On good days it has not been so bad as we’ve had lots of schoolwork to complete, although mummy and daddy say it has become really hard to juggle everything. I need extra help with school work due to a stroke I had, so mummy spends a lot of time sitting with me, while daddy tries to work, while they then need to try and give time to my siblings too. We are also fortunate enough to have a garden, so the good weather has allowed me, my sister and brother to do fun stuff outside too. One night we even went camping in the back garden and toasted marshmallows. That was the best!

One thing that has started to make me quite sad and affect my emotions is not seeing my friends or getting to go to school. I really miss everyone – especially my teacher as she’s amazing. I have been able to speak to my teacher a couple of times and the fantastic Mr Rhodes has called to see how we all are too. I’m hoping to see class 1M again really soon, but for the moment I understand why I have to stay at home and me and my family will continue to make important memories together.

Take care and stay safe everybody,

Love from 

Elodie xx

 

Garreth Rhodes

LOCKDOWN came a lot sooner than I was anticipating. I remember sitting in the school staffroom discussing the cases abroad and trying to reassure colleagues that they didn’t need to worry. School closures were being talked about, but nobody really thought it would happen. We were still planning our fun activities for the coming terms. It was not many evenings later though that my wife and I sat watching our Prime Minister shut the country down, and describe how life as we knew it was now on hold. 

In reality, life for us was already on hold – my wife had given birth a few days before in a very empty maternity ward, and I was looking forward to my two-week paternity getting to know my new little girl. I’m a teacher at the school Elodie attends and, like her, my life was saved by a hero I shall never meet. I received a liver transplant in 2016, after my own liver was destroyed by an incurable disease. Due to this, I was instantly placed on the shielding list to protect me from Covid-19 and was instructed to stay indoors for my own safety. 

I am very grateful for the protection of course, but this meant I could no longer go into school. It was at this point that I also learned how distant everything feels, even if things are physically not that far away. Meetings to discuss the children’s learning were happening, and decisions were being made about how to keep everyone safe, all without me. This is what I have found most trying. Not being able to work with the children I came into the profession to work with. 

As a teacher, I love spending time with my class. I love seeing them grow as little people, discover who they are and what they are capable of. It is a job that is always changing, and one where you have to think on your feet a lot of the time. It’s that part of the job I really enjoy: the spontaneity, and the challenge. That’s perhaps also why lockdown has been so frustrating: the time when schools have really had to think on their feet – have had to think creatively and fluidly – and I can’t be at the chalk-face helping to tackle that problem. 

Garreth at the 2019 World Transplant Games
Garreth at the 2019 World Transplant Games

Obviously working from home has its own challenges and being a part of solving those has been really valuable. The sheer number of hours that have gone into perfecting the home learning provision for children has been huge. But it’s not the distanced, hands-off jobs that most teachers really enjoy. Distanced learning feels very impersonal and remote; difficult to know if what you are providing is supporting, encouraging or perhaps simply confusing.  

I look forward to the time when I am allowed to go back into school. I look forward to getting back to interacting with individuals face-to-face, being able to be useful within society again, and I look forward to all of this being over and getting back to normal. Whatever ‘normal’ might be. Despite itching to get back outside, I am also acutely aware that things have changed – the way supermarkets work and the way people interact – and this is something else we have also been shielded from. It’s all a big unknown out there right now. 

What I do know however is just how important it is to look around us and really savour and enjoy what we have. Having had a transplant means I’ve already had a second chance at life, and it really helps you to appreciate just how special and precious the little things are. The things we so often take for granted. And now, when everything has changed for so many, it serves as a great reminder for everyone to stop, look around for those precious little things, and be grateful.

Take care,

Garreth