The Impact Of COVID 

On March 23rd 2020, our country took the unprecedented step to go into national lockdown, in the wake of the WHO (World Health Organization) declaring COVID-19 a public health emergency of international concern.

Whilst it seemed that these precautions were taken to protect millions of people and for many it was a relief, for us and many other families, it was a terrifying time, not because of COVID itself but because we didn't know how long it was going to be until we saw Gav again or if we would see him again at all. Gavin had been used to having visitors every single day for almost 9 months and on March 22nd he was moved to a new brain injury unit in Gloucester and the day after, the nation went into lockdown. 

Gavins stroke had left him quadriplegic, unable to speak or communicate clearly with others. His memory was limited, especially his short term memory, which meant that no matter how many times we told him about COVID and the lockdown, within minutes he would forget.

Nurses, care assistants and other staff members on the unit were working tirelessly.

Despite efforts, we had very few phonecalls. We had a handful of video calls and the calls were always very emotional as he would cry as soon as he saw us. When we would call the unit (daily) we would be lucky to get an answer and when we did it was very brief. Sometimes we were unable to get through at all. 

Four months passed until we were allowed to have a visit at the front entrance. We weren't allowed to go any closer than 2 metres apart and were told only a maximum of two people from the same household were allowed to come along. When the doors opened he burst into tears. Here is where we saw just how badly COVID had impacted him. He had lost so much weight, (he was 16 stone 7lbs before his stroke - he went down to 12 stone and at 6ft 4, you can only imagine how he looked) he was slumped in his chair, he was wearing clothes far too small for him, he hadn't had a shave, he had dry skin all over him, his top was soaking wet from saliva, this was particularly sad because Gav had worked so hard at swallowing and controlling this so he didn't dribble but all this had deteriorated terribly. We left that day crying and beside ourselves, knowing how desperately unhappy and sad he had become. 

Before moving to the brain injury in Gloucester, Gavin was accessing and participating in activities and making small steps of progress. He was settled and had good relationships with the professionals involved in his care at CERU. Within four months he lost all ability to move his fingers, his toes, he stopped making sounds, he could barely engage with us by the time we were allowed back to visit, in fact he had reverted back to using his eyes to communicate, which was looking up for yes and down for no. 

During the pandemic Gavins funding was stopped. Apparently due to covid, it meant an assessment couldn't be done, which meant he had no physiotherapy, no speech and language, no sessions with a psychologist and didn't get to see professor wade who was his consultant managing his care. He wasn't even given a shower because it took 6 months for them to order him a shower chair and get it delivered. All these things resulted in Gavin being left in bed all day without being moved regularly or being put in his chair in front of a television because the unit was understaffed, which resulted in gavs mood plummeting and going into deep depression. 

The beginning of the end for Gavin and many others.

Millions of families were in this situation and it is terribly sad how many individuals and families were affected - especially when the government were partying and not sticking to the same rules they had given the whole of the country! ...anyway, moving on...

Amazingly Gavin managed to get some small movements back in his fingers and toes but this was down to family members, particularly Mum, who travelled every day via buses and trains to support Gavin in his recovery, doing activities with him such as encouraging him to move his fingers and toes, using his letter board to communicate, giving him massages to loosen up the muscles, and so much more. Unfortunately even when an assessment was carried out he was denied Continuing Health Care which meant although he had a room in a rehabilitation unit, he wasn't able to access any of the treatments. None of us, not even other health professionals could understand why this decision was made. 

We won't ever know how far Gav would have potentially got if it wasn't for COVID, but we strongly believe he would have got so much further. 

Like so many other families, we went through some of the worst days during this time. 

COVID took away precious time with millions of families loved ones. 

Unfortunately fast forward a year, two years down the line, even now in 2023, people are still suffering. Hospital appointments are back logged, mental health has hit an all time critical level, children are struggling academically and socially, nobody can get a dentist appointment, GP appointments are scarce, speech and language and physiotherapy is around an 18 month wait...We are all still suffering the impact of COVID.and unfortunately I think we will for quite some time. 



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