How COVID-19 split my family up during lockdown

16 Apr 2021
By Leah W., Student at De Montfort University

When Covid hit the UK, Leah never thought it would affect her family the way it did. Here’s her story about how they battled forward in the face of a global pandemic.

When COVID-19 first arrived in the UK, I never imagined it would escalate the way it has over the past eight months. And I certainly didn’t think it would affect my living arrangements for two months or split my family between two houses at a difficult, scary time in our lives.

I’ll start from the beginning.

A few years ago, my dad was diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Back then, it wasn’t very big and just needed to be monitored every six to twelve months to check it wasn’t growing to a dangerous size.

Then, around the beginning of February this year, my dad started getting bad pain around the top left side of his body, which got worse day-by-day.

Eventually, he went to the GP, where he was promptly sent to Derby Royal Hospital to have his aneurysm scanned, amid fears it could be leaking.

After the scan, the doctors concluded that it wasn’t leaking - but with no other explanation and my dad still in pain, they decided the best course of action was to remove the aneurysm through surgery.

I was at university in Leicester at the time, but when my mum text me what was happening, I immediately rang and told her I was getting on a train to Derby.

I wanted to see my dad before he went into surgery, and I was in Derby within two hours of our phone call.

When I first walked into my dad’s hospital room, his first words to me were ‘What are you doing here? You should be at uni’. This was typical behaviour for my dad, not wanting to worry me or stress me out, but I think everyone knew he was just putting on a brave face for all of us.

The worst part of that night was not being able to give my dad a hug before we left. On top of the fact that Covid-19 was on the rise, me and my family couldn’t risk giving him any potential illnesses before the surgery that would make his physical condition worse.

February 25th was a tense day for everyone in our house. We’d been told that dad could be in surgery for at least ten hours, if not longer. So, we all spent the day trying to distract ourselves, every so often looking at my mum’s phone waiting for the hospital to ring with news.

Finally, we got a phone call telling us that the surgery went well, and that dad was in recovery. We all slept a little easier that night, knowing he was doing OK.

The first couple days after dad’s surgery, my mum and brother went to see dad while I stayed at home. I think she knew she’d have to prepare me for when I saw him, and she was right given that I started crying the minute I sat down by his bed; partly, because I was relieved to see he was OK, but also because I hated seeing him medicated and barely awake.

It was touch and go for some time, because after the surgery, the doctors told my mum that dad had fluid on his lungs, making it difficult to breathe. To reduce the level, they had to ‘prone’ him, which involved turning him on his stomach to help drain the fluid - a last resort since nothing they’d done prior had helped.

Once his lungs were clear and he was stronger, though, my dad was discharged, being told by the doctor he had to stay at home as much as possible because if he caught Covid-19 in his current condition, the chance of survival was 1%.

Then the announcement of the first lockdown on the 23rd of March threw a spanner in the works.

After my dad was released, I went back to university to catch up on the work I’d missed and finish my assignments, only to find myself back at home again in less than two weeks. Running parallel to everything else that had happened was the fact that my nan had been in hospital since mid-November of 2019.

After a complication with a previous hip surgery, she’d had her first hip implant removed and replaced with an antibiotic block to eliminate an infection, which was followed up by a second hip surgery on the 12th March.

So, when lockdown was announced, my nan had to leave the hospital early.

Because she wasn’t very mobile and still in a lot of discomfort, my mum had to move into my nan’s house and work from home, so that she could keep an eye on her. After a few days, I joined them so I could cook and make drinks for my nan, while mum got her work done during the day.

Alongside making food and drink for nan and helping with housework to take the pressure off my mum, I had to finish and submit my final three assignments for my second-year modules, two of which were due on the same day.

The hardest part of all of it was knowing that my dad was home alone most of the day, since my brother was out working during the day. It worried mum and me constantly.

However, it was equally difficult not being able to hug my nan while I was home since she was also in the Covid-19 high risk category due to her age. It was a rough two months for everyone.

I’m glad to say they’re both doing much better now. If there’s one thing I hope those who read this story take away, it’s that I understand how difficult lockdown has been for everyone. I know I’m not the only one to have an experience like this, and there’s many people that have faced much worse these past eight months.

But in comparison to having your family split up, not being able to meet your friends and go for a night out in town or have a house party is a small sacrifice in the grand scheme of things.

And I would rather spend a year in lockdown knowing that I’m protecting those I care about than have one day of fun that puts those I love at risk.

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I'm a second-year creative writing student at De Montfort University who loves writing poetry and other things for my blogs.