Since being with Albert as he died, I’ve become more and more anxious thinking I might either have coronavirus or will get it soon. I didn’t know I was going to be sitting in a small room with a man dying of Covid before it actually happened. I’ve never done anything like that before in my life. It was a sudden event that happened without warning. I was given a blue paper mask, gloves, and an apron and told to go inside and sit with him quietly, maybe hold his hand, and keep him calm.
LUCKILY, so luckily, I’d had a conversation with my ex-husband, Paul, the day before, who’d asked about the PPE I would be wearing at hospital for my volunteering, and when I told him about the mask and gloves he said, “what about your eyes? You need protection for your eyes too.” I hadn’t thought of that, and it was a good point.
So just as I was about to go in and sit with Albert I said, “what about a visor, can I have one of those?” The nurse looked surprised and turned her head from side to side as if she’d no idea where any might be and why anyone would ask for such a thing, but I’d seen a small supply of them on a nearby trolley so was able to point them out. I strapped it on and went in.
Inside, Albert was moaning and lying in bed on a CPAP machine, which I subsequently discovered is an aerosol generating procedure (AGP), for which I should really have been wearing a FFP3 mask. But no-one was wearing that type, we were all using just the blue paper masks, even the nurse who hugged his body to her chest as we struggled to change the sheets on his bed.
I feel let down that I, as a volunteer, didn’t have it explained to me that I should be using a better mask than the normal paper ones, and that I wasn’t provided with one, or told to get one. I was just shoved in the room with my standard non-aerosol preventing paper mask. The same as everyone else.
I spent 50 minutes sitting a metre away from Albert, close enough to be able to hold his hand or stroke his leg. There was a window open behind the blinds so the room was aired, but you can’t see those tiny little aerosols – they’re so miniscule hundreds of them can fit on a human hair! And the gusts of storm Christophe were swirling in through the window, round the room, up into my nose and lungs, and back out through the window. I worry I breathed in many Covid aerosols through my paper mask that day. So now I’m just sitting here, hour after hour, waiting for symptoms to emerge.
My anxiety is getting the better of me. I’m imagining I have a sore throat or feeling breathless. I did this last year in April, and then the symptoms actually did turn out to be Covid. I don’t want that to happen again now, but there’s really nothing I can do about it. I was exposed to potentially huge amounts of aerosols of Covid-19 three days ago, and I can’t take that event back. All the nurses had no better protection and that is their daily job. Have they all been vaccinated and feel confident? Have they all had the virus and are now immune? Or are they just too busy, too caught up in their job rushing from one thing to another to worry about what kind of mask they’re wearing? Or are they not provided with any? I think this last is the most likely reason, and if so, that’s really not good enough.
My plan for me is to continue living my life, keep away from people, wear my mask, wash my hands, stay out of contact with everyone until next Friday, when I will take a Covid test. By then it will have been ten days since the exposure and if I’m going to get it, surely that will have been enough time for sufficient viral load to amass in the back of my nose and throat to show up in a test? I really don’t want a false negative test result.
If, when (yes, I must think when) I get a negative result back from that test I will give myself a reward, out of pure relief. Perhaps I should spend the next seven days deciding exactly what that should be.
In the meanwhile, just to comfort myself, I bought a pulse oximeter from Amazon (to arrive tomorrow) so I can monitor my blood oxygen levels. This evening Jack said he had a sore throat and I think I also have one. But lets hope it’s either a normal cold coming on or our imaginations.