Updated: Apr 28, 2020
Before I say anything else, I’d like to put out my love to each and every one of you right now coping during this pandemic, and give a massive thanks to our incredible NHS. We already know how amazing they are with our endless appointments as an RA patient, but I am so glad they are finally getting the appreciation and recognition that they deserve!
Okay so you have an auto immune disease, and a deathly virus spreads across the world infecting and killing thousands, what do you do when you are already immune compromised?
When the pandemic was developing back in January I was working towards the end of my contract onboard, performing to hundreds of passengers most nights, and sailing around Australia and New Zealand (AMAZING places please go when this is over!) When my contract ended in Perth at the end of February 22nd Worldometers Covid 19 statistics stated that the UK had 9 confirmed cases, 0 deaths, and Australia 21 cases, with also 0 deaths. Me and my best friend Sellars had both docked in Australia to end our contract, so decided to travel from Melbourne all the way up the East Coast for 6 weeks before flying home. We had planned everything and stopped off at Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney, Byron Bay, Gold Coast, Brisbane and got to Noosa when it all started becoming a bit real to us. We were very aware of the situation developing in the world and had both been told our next contracts onboard had been delayed understandably, but it was when we went to the supermarket to get our food shop that we first witnessed the lack of food and toilet roll. We are both extremely lucky to have supportive friends and family at home, updating us and becoming increasingly worried about us being stuck in Australia. That second day in Noosa we sat on the most beautiful beach, and began looking into flights, cancelling all of our trips, hostels, flights, bus journeys, we didn’t want to go and just stopped halfway through, in denial about possibly leaving our trip, and carried on with our day.
Day 3 in Noosa...
The next morning, we woke up to more messages than any other morning, telling us borders were going to be closed & our flights cancelled/really expensive. Now the thought of maybe being stuck in Oz was okay at that point, the confirmed cases were so low, everyone was continuing their everyday routines, and Corona just did not feel anywhere near us at that time. Me and Sellars decided within that hour we were going home that day, we wanted to be there for our families during this crazy time, get back before the borders closed, oh yeah and I was terrified at the thought of my immune system being compromised whilst being the other side of the world, running out of medication, not having our amazing NHS! That day we arranged everything we needed and within 48 hours (most of them travelling) we got a bus from Noosa to Brisbane, a domestic flight Brisbane to Sydney, an international flight Sydney to Abu Dhabi, and another Abu Dhabi to London, to then drive 2 hours to my house! When I was home, I made sure I self-isolated for 14 days after travelling, to keep me and my family safe and since then have not really left the house, apart from exercise.
I had a letter though from my Rheumatologist to check how at risk I was, and I am only level 1 whilst I’m on methotrexate, meaning I am ‘at risk’. I’ve only been out for exercise and dog walks and have avoided the shops altogether!
Being Immunocompromised it feels like our disease can take enough out of our lives already sometimes, and now it can be suffocating to know we can’t go outside, meet up with our support system, terrified if we catch Covid-19 our immune system won’t handle it as well as a healthy one would. According to an Italian study from 2017, “the lung has been reported among the most frequent sites of infection in patients with rheumatic disease” and “patients with rheumatic disease show a peculiar vulnerability to infectious complications.”
I may look healthy, but I am not considered healthy, RA compromises my immune system because I am on disease-modifying drugs, almost all autoimmune diseases require the immune system to be slightly suppressed, this is because our overactive immune systems is what causes it to attack the body. Therefore I am taking this seriously and protecting myself until it is over. We cannot rush this process, so respect the guidelines and take care of yourself.
So if you are stuck at home, with not much to do, now is the time to trial a new recipe, a new yoga lesson, the ways you can start healing some of your symptoms through rest, sleep, exercise, healthy meals, and so much less stress! I’m enjoying spending quality time with my family, working on myself with new workouts, eating well as there is no temptation to ‘go out for food’, I’m sleeping a lot because I can and my body is so well rested, and I am drinking so much water! I also understand those key workers out there, working harder than ever, and those faced with home schooling, financial compromises, being away from loved ones to name just a few issues that are going to make you more stressed than ever. Remember to look after yourself too, stress has many implications on our body!
My top tips for staying sane during lockdown is:
1. Keep a flexible routine- even if it changes, try and get yourself up and ready for the day ahead
2. Challenge yourself- If you wake up with limited symptoms, try a new workout?
3. Stretch- Give that body a good stretch daily to keep those joints moving
4. Communication is essential! If you are having a bad day, reach out, speak to your loved ones- whichever situation Covid 19 has put you in, make more of an effort than ever to communicate with those you love. This is an emotional rollercoaster of a time, and you and others will benefit more than you know from speaking!
5. Make your bed- As Charles Duhigg notes in his book, The Power of Habit, "making your bed every morning is correlated with better productivity, a greater sense of well-being, and stronger skills at sticking with a budget."
6. Vitamin D- Vitamin D boosts that immune system and maintains strong bones
7. Learn a new skill- the accomplishment you will feel will put a smile on your face
8. Stay as active as possible-release those endorphins! This will benefit you mentally and physically, there are so many home workouts online.
9. Remember why you’re doing this-if you feel trapped or frustrated remind yourself you are protecting yourself & others, and flattening the curve.
10. Find something to make you smile daily.
Stay safe, CH x