As the UK's Covid-19 vaccination programme continues and restrictions slowly start to ease, David, a liver transplant patient, reflects on the lessons he's learned throughout the pandemic. Thank you, David.
As we move into spring and summer the outlook is brighter in all senses.
"Shielding has echoes of being ill in hospital. Reliant on others for food, stuck in one place, you try to stay positive, keep your mind busy, and reassure friends and family.
"The similarities to my former illness are clearer now, looking back. Back in September 2005, at my diagnosis, I remember the sudden sense of ‘okay then, this is a crisis’ and throwing myself into research and planning. I remember wanting to focus my efforts on others - then it was thinking how to support my mum in her final weeks of her life and my family as they tried to cope.
"This time, in 2020 it was connecting with family and friends, checking in, as well as trying to stay strong for my employees in the charity I run as we figured out how to help the schools we support and run everything from our homes. And all the time trying to deal with the fear: what happens if I get it, what happens to my immune suppression drugs, what happens to my liver?
"But something about my previous experience of serious liver disease, Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis, gave me more to draw upon this time around. Even while living alone, shielding and having very recently separated from a long term relationship, I could constantly reflect to myself “come on now, you’ve survived much worse and you came out stronger”. I know how lucky I’ve been, with steady income, health and supportive neighbours. Even though it took a few weeks, I eventually got a regular source of groceries sorted and I even threw myself into cooking and exercise.
"There are plenty of lessons to learn from this pandemic. I always knew how reliant we could all be on medics and healthcare, but now I also realise how much of a lifeline we have from supermarkets, from postal workers and from utility workers. On a personal level this has reminded once again of me the importance of building up savings: not just financial but also social, physical health and mental health - you never know when you might need to fall back on any or all of these.
"As we move into spring and summer the outlook is brighter in all senses. I’m privileged to be just a few weeks from my second vaccination. I’ve found new love in my life and my family and friends have made it through relatively unscathed by this awful pandemic. And through all of it, I continue to be fundamentally in awe of the generosity of my organ donor and her family who allowed me to keep living my life as she abruptly ended hers."