The secret gifts of the pandemic

The secret gifts of the pandemic

We prepared very early. We locked down the clinic before the official lockdown was announced. This was because two of my three children were rushed to hospital on a Sunday night in early March with scary symptoms – one unable to breathe, and the other unable to walk. It turned out to be influenza B, not Covid, but my heart didn’t stop pounding for a week. What if it had been COVID? I was scared of the new virus anyway; but determined to keep our service running safely and to be here for our clients and patients.

So we ramped up our safety measures. We started getting everybody to wait in their cars and did all he usual things – military grade disinfection protocols, contactless payments, disinfecting every single thing even the hospital leads on each pet and the pens, the gate handles, the handles on the holding crates; ourselves, our clothes, our shoes – you all know the drill . We could see that everybody was scared, at the beginning.

Only fairly serious emergencies would cause people to come out during the height of the first wave. But some unexpected gifts came about.

Firstly, people were glad to see a familiar face. Especially older people. Some hadn’t seen any for weeks. They parked outside, and we chatted over the wall, and it was nice to see them relax and smile when we told them everything would be ok; that was a gift.

Secondly, with no animals in the waiting room, and each pet taken in individually, there were no fear or stress pheromones in the waiting room or the clinic. Windows open; calm and steady staff and plenty of tasty treats saw pets quite happy to come in and be looked after without their owner.

Next, some of our more anxious patients seemed better without their owners! They didn’t have to worry about their human, and just had to deal with their vet, who is nice, and it was an easier experience for them.

During exams, we could chat to the pets, and really focus on our health checks uninterrupted without more talking.

Pets are some of the greatest benefactors of this crisis – bonding again with stressed out owners, getting more walks, and many more hugs and rubs from their humans, who really need them now more than ever.

The greatest gift of all is that everybody has slowed down. When we say, do you mind waiting a little longer, pretty much nobody complained. Now we all know that everybody hadn’t much else on, and that’s a running joke! But mostly people were calmer, and great, and pleasant, and less stressed in general about juggling, and multitasking, and needing to rush off for the next thing. The listened more, and they smiled more.

For me personally, without school runs breaking up the day, and with everybody working or staying at home, I’ve had the gift of evenings! We usually run late appointments to facilitate people getting in after work. At the moment, nearly everyone can see us at a very sociable time.

I’m sure you’ve all had more time, you’ve discovered different ways of doing things, new ways of organising things in advance, hopefully you’ve exercised more; connected with people, and you’ve had countless other benefits every day.

Some families, of course, were affected by tragedy. The virus struck into the heart of our family too. My darling gentle uncle Fr Pat Rogers just woke up yesterday after 23 days on a ventilator in St James’s hospital and spoke to us. He will be ok. Thank you for all of your messages, thoughts and prayers. We had a rollercoaster of good and bad days and nearly lost him several times. My sincerest condolences to all families who have lost loved ones to this blasted virus. But thanks to the doctors and nurses of St James’s ICU, who are beyond heros and angels, he will be ok.

As we relax the restrictions, hopefully we’ll keep some of the better gifts of the lockdown going forward, and it won’t have been all bad! I’m pretty sure my kids will only remember it as one of the best times of their lives – parents at home, bog jumping, frog catching, butterfly spotting, long lazy days playing in the paddling pool. If that’s what they remember, then this pandemic has been their gift.

When my uncle is strong enough to chat, and we digest the enormity of what happened to him, and we cry, and hopefully we can have a hug, I’m pretty sure the tales of my kids jumping the bog will make him smile. If you guys think of any other gifts I have forgotten, or want to share, you can do so in the comments!

God bless you all and keep safe. Don’t take anything for granted, and stay cautious out there.

Oh, and if you need something, we’re accepting routine appointments again. Slowly…

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