How I see it …. bursting bubbles?

After two weeks in lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19, I have left my home a total of three times.

Once to pick up a prescription and once to buy vegetables and once to go for a walk. In these times, I have come closer than 2m to three people who are outside of my isolation “bubble”, and in all cases, they were wearing some form of PPE.

While the process of isolation is a change to the life I have become used to there are positive aspects, for example, I can, for the most part, work from home. My work has been less interrupted and at times, more productive. At home, there is also less traffic noise at night which means getting to sleep is easier.

Socially we have adapted, we now have virtual coffee, virtual drinks and today a virtual afternoon tea for a staff member who is leaving. A further example of adaptation is related to grocery shopping. Instead of more frequent visits to the supermarket, I find myself waiting up until midnight to get delivery slots for groceries instead of same-day order and delivery before lockdown. Even though ordering over a week in advance is a new thing for me, it is not a big problem.

Overall, I would consider myself pretty resilient, a problem solver and someone who strives to make the best of most situations and logistically isolation has not been as hard as I expected it to be. However, I did underestimate the emotional toll of loneliness, uncertainty, fear and loss of family contact.

My isolation bubble is small and consists of myself and a flatmate. My family have two other bubbles in NZ. The first is my mother and brother (who also have the same genetic respiratory condition). The second is my father, who is in a bubble of his own with Hospice staff.

Today my morals were challenged. The hospice Doctor discussed the fact that I could visit my father in his last hours which could be soon. Currently, the COVID-19 lockdown means no visitors other than compassionate at the end of life.

While it will be fantastic to spend time with Dad, the context is not the best. Over the last few weeks, I have been finding not seeing him or helping with his care very challenging, but this is with the knowledge that in breaking the rules, I could cause harm to others.

The dilemma I face is the safety of others versus my own and my father’s desire. Just how many bubbles do I burst to spend time with him versus the risk of harm?

Having low vision means that I can not drive. For travel, there are usually other means, such as rideshare, taxi, busses, friends and more but in lockdown, options are more limited by availability, cost and time.

There are a lot of things to weigh up. I really would like to see my father, just as he would like to spend time with me. However, there are other factors in play, such as cost, time, emotions, lockdown, the potential spread of disease, and putting others at risk.

As a nurse, and personally helping others is important, this includes my father and the others I may encounter. In lockdown, helping myself and my father means not assisting others, in other words, both options are mutually exclusive.

My father is in a hospice that is 35 minutes drive from my house. It would take me 3 to 4 busses and at least 1 hour 35 minutes weekdays. In taking this travel option I would potentially burst at least 5 bubbles (not including other passengers). Taxi companies have quoted around $220 for a 35 minute trip with three bubbles burst (mine, the driver, my father).

Asking my brother to take me is an option; however, his car has no warrant and registration, and the local testing station is only open for essential vehicles making this a less viable option. While there may be compassionate grounds around the warrant and registration, this is a risk my brother is not willing to take. It would also burst three bubbles.

Typically, organisations such as Hospice, Cancer Foundation and Blind and Low Vision may have volunteer drivers for visits like this. However, in lockdown, these options are not available.

What I have come to realise is that no matter what option I take here, there is a cost whether it be timing (e.g. the time it takes me to get to hospice to see Dad in his last hours), financial (the price of a taxi), emotional (not seeing Dad or putting others at risk) or risking spreading COVID-19, travelling outside of my local area (breaking the law).

What writing this post has reminded me is one of my personal and professional values is around showing compassion for those around me and myself when we are all challenged by the world that we live in.