Thank you to Coronavirus Care Givers and the Kindness of Strangers

Our global village will need to work together in the coming months to find new ways to live, learn, play, and work to halt the spread of Coronavirus. While healthcare systems are stretched to the limit, and schools and non-essential services are shut down, it will take time for governments to set up new systems to make sure everyone is protected including elderly, low income, disabled, and homeless.

My recent experiences in early days of needed change showed people with mental health problems like panic or severe anxiety could have flare-ups. Please be supportive and reassuring. Sometimes a virtual hug, text, or just being there to listen is the best care needed. There are already quite good ehealth counselling systems in place and we need to keep these going.

Media information is a mix of fact with many questions left unanswered since only the most critical are being addressed currently. I know because of exhaustion and stress from pre-existing insomnia and flared up hearing health problems like my decreased sound tolerance or hyperacusis, I misunderstood some information, and made some decisions that I thought were reasonable at the time. We need to be patient. Shelter in place. Keep each other safe. This won’t last forever.

We have technologies to allow online communication, learning, working from home, and telehealth or ehealth. We need to take advantage so non-critical or presumptive cases can stay out of clinics and hospitals where critical care is urgently needed for people already sick. We can’t swamp our healthcare systems with non-critical care. For example, CloudMD in Canada is an excellent way to get doctor appointments by video chat. They have good support and are going to help me with my Rx refills or other concerns which is more than I ever expected.

However, disabilities like vision or hearing loss/Deafness and unfamiliarity with modern technology make access a problem, which only made my stress and anxiety worse. Some people who are older and not as familiar with the online world may need help. I still believe some type of health-safety check in system is needed for our most vulnerable. So anybody having trouble accessing new online technology for e-health or other services is not left frustrated or unable to get services.

Website design also needs to be much better in many cases. For example, make it easy to get into shopping or other systems with good access for vision or hearing health disabilities. Use common sense. Set it up so the postal code has to be input first before allowing entry to shopping. Or set it up so if you need delivery, the delivery time has to be selected first. There is nothing more frustrating than spending hours putting together a cart only to find you’re not in the delivery area or there is no delivery time so the whole order is rejected.

Cuts to social systems are also having a terrible impact on the homeless and others without good support systems in place. For example, in Vancouver, Canada, all shelters have been shut down as well as soup kitchens. The homeless are now begging for food instead of spare change, with some saying they haven’t eaten in 2 days. Kind people are taking them in and feeding them as needed, but a more permanent solution is needed, especially when winter comes again. We cannot leave anyone out in the cold.

There are already creative ideas including setting up cruise ships as temporary shelters/hospitals and I think this could also be used for motels or hotels with basic cooking supplies. It would be less expensive for governments to book homeless or socially isolated people into individual, or shared rooms if a group of friends, where food supplies could be consistently delivered and nobody would go hungry or cold.

I had a good conversation with paramedics and police today. Telling them about my difficulties with knowing I wasn’t a critical case, but not being able to access non-critical info. The police said they can’t help people figure out delivery from stores to home. It’s not a critical emergency which I knew. They suggested I was reckless for not calling 911 earlier or 811. But I didn’t want to tie up 911 when I wasn’t critical. And 811 crashed. This is our Canadian coronavirus hotline. It’s not a good feeling when you can’t get through to a number the government tells you to call. The paramedics confirmed I did the right thing by sheltering in place and leaving critical care for the people who need it. Apparently if people are sick they can go downhill fast with this virus. So if you have compromised immune systems and are sick, don’t delay if you have any shortness of breath or trouble breathing. You need emergency help fast and don’t hesitate to call in emergency services.

When I asked, the paramedics told me about Facebook as a blooming source of connecting local communities and lending a helping hand. If you have an account some help can be found under Facebook Marketplace (I think. it’s new so again we have to make sure vulnerable know and know how to access or help them with it). For example, in Victoria BC, some local Facebook groups have been set up to share requests for help and offers of assistance. My problem while away from home was not that I couldn’t buy groceries or food, but that I had no way to get it delivered. I posted a request for help and within 2 minutes, kind strangers in the area offered to deliver groceries for me. A total stranger who is only temporarily in the area. This not only helped my anxiety, but takes stress off local grocery stores who are swamped delivering online orders, leaving some people with difficulty accessing food.

Community Facebook Groups are also looking at setting up planting areas to help grow more food in residential yards for local food banks in the coming months. Some requests are larger and some are small including distilled water for a senior with a CPAP machine or a spare face mask for a travelling student. Some are for just hanging out in lawnchairs set up at recommended distances so people can spend time together without needing to talk. Now more than ever before we need to rely on the kindness of strangers. And help make sure social distancing doesn’t mean social isolation. Each community needs to come together and most are. It takes a village.

While I was so upset about lack of local restaurants delivering, the shut downs were temporary. Smaller business are starting up again with new online delivery systems. We need to support these small-business owners and their yummy food. Same for smaller retailers who we can support to stay in business with new ways of ordering and delivery of products. Airbnb has taken a hit too. But many airbnb have code key entry with no need for interaction between hosts and guests. While it might take a while before we know how much non-essential travel is allowed, when permitted and shelter in space restrictions are eased, we need to support these small business owners too. While short term Airbnb often get a bad rap from inconsiderate noisy destructive short term renters, the long term options are a beautiful way to stay in a local community with easily available info and support from hosts familiar with activities, resources, and the best places to eat or play.

When I left home it was to temporarily escape all the construction noise which I was more sensitive to because of pre-existing problems. The news about Coronavirus was starting to hit the media but it seemed like things would settle down in about a month. Now it is clear that it will take time as much as 12-18 months for experts to study. this virus and develop vaccines needed for different strains. Essential services will stay in place and be improved for infrastructure over time. But for now I’ve decided to get back home and shelter with my loved ones.

We need to support each other now more than ever before. And take care of each other at home and in our communities while our healthcare, paramedics, police, and governments identify issues and find solutions for something never before seen in our world.

When life returns to more normal, I plan to come back to Victoria. I love it here. The people are more kind than ever, and I know the vibrant entertainment, social, and restaurant life will get back to the deliciousness and fun I remember so well.

I hope my diary of discontent didn’t hurt anybody’s feelings or get taken in the wrong way. Please accept my apologies if it did. It was all written with a severe migraine and the worst flare up of my major anxiety disorder than I’ve had in years. I only felt that if I was having that much trouble accessing Rx refills, groceries, or needed support, it must be far far worse for the most vulnerable populations in our communities. I have never been good at separating my emotions and caring too much about other people who might be at far more risk than I am.

If nothing else on a personal level, it showed me that clear communication is essential. Because words were said on both sides. And we can all do better. I also achieved my goal of making the stern professional police officer almost smile which is like getting a reaction from a Buckingham Palace guard. I had been pronouncing a local town name wrong, and they finally asked me where I was talking about which is near where they grew up. They taught me the right pronunciation which I can now use when i come back to this beautiful place. Although we didn’t always see eye to eye in our conversation today, I get their point that it’s hard not to worry about a classic sign of depression like snoring like a log at 2:00 in the afternoon with curtains closed on a sunny day. But I always have an afternoon nap because of my chronic conditions completely unrelated to depression. As my cat well knows. So it’s good to talk and get the facts before making assumptions. And I’m glad police are trained to do that.

Thank you again to the brave healthcare, paramedics, and police who are putting their own lives on the line to heal, save lives, and protect us during this pandemic. I read of a case where a doctor is living in a basement isolated from their wife, toddler, and newborn to protect them while working tirelessly at a local hospital. Dedicated people are making sacrifices in their own lives to care for us. They are brave. They are all heroes. And we should support them and each other as much as possible to get through this pandemic.

Maybe the world will be a kinder better place, with more close knit communities, when all is said and done. I sure hope so.

Jan L. Mayes

“Never give up. Never surrender.”

Author, audiologist, educator, quiet activist, playing with words.

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