Sheila Parker – Whitby and the pandemic : a virtual archive of people’s experiences

Where do I begin?
I suppose, like many other people that this virus, Coronavirus, wouldn’t reach this country, or this town, or any members of my family. How wrong I was.
For me, things altered on the evening of 16th March 2020 when I received a text message from Hazel, the Museum Manager telling me not to go into work at Whitby Museum the following day. Then on 17th of March the Museum shut its doors to the public. We had no idea when we would be opening again, and were just living in limbo, not really knowing what was happening.
At the time my Mum, who is now 86 wasn’t very well. I had to take her for blood tests to the Drs who were working under strict distancing rules on Thursday. On Monday morning, 23rd March,  I had to take her back to the surgery where the Dr said she had to go to hospital, straightaway, her blood sugars were sky high and she was in real danger. My brother took her through to James Cook University Hospital, where she was kept in for 9 days.
During this time the world as she knew it, changed dramatically. When she came home, District Nurses had to go in twice a day to administer insulin, to keep her blood sugars on an even keel. They had to wear protective gowns, masks and gloves for each visit. Family or friends were not allowed in each other’s houses. This was a time when I felt particularly bad, as I couldn’t go in and help, she had to cope on her own, just with the help of the nursing team. They were amazing, I could never thank them enough for the way they gradually taught Mum how to test her own blood and administer insulin. At 86 it can’t have been easy.
On the evening of 23rd March,  the Government, led by Boris Johnson, imposed the Lockdown. Initially for a period of 3 weeks it was reviewed again on Monday 13th April and extended for another 3 weeks, in the hope of slowing down the spread of the virus. No schools, churches, pubs, hotels, restaurants, cinemas, garden centres, playgrounds and even some parks were allowed to open. Non-essential travel was banned. People has to stay at least 2 metres apart and if you were really vulnerable, like me, then you had to self-isolate for 12 weeks.
 It became an alien world. Our son, Barry, had just moved back to Whitby from Hull, to help look after his children because of the schools closing when the lockdown took place. He was now stuck here, unable to return to Hull. Luckily, he found a job in a large Tesco warehouse at Teesport, but it entailed a 40-mile trip there and back each day. I had to be especially careful, eating separately, using different towels, not being too close for any length of time because of my vulnerability. The amount of hand-wash, hand-gel and antiseptic wipes used in our house was unbelievable.
On 24th March, my sister-in-law, Doreen rang. She had suffered a stroke about 3 years ago and also has COPD, which can make it very difficult for her to breathe. She hadn’t been well for a few weeks, and had been on numerous anti-biotics and steroids to try to help. The Dr had made the decision to send her to hospital, Scarborough Hospital, and she was ringing to let us know. My husband, Dave spoke to her, it was a really emotional time as we knew that if she caught Coronavirus it could be potentially fatal. Imagine our emotions the day after, when we got the phone call to say she had tested positive for Covid-19. For a while our world stopped still. She was kept in an isolation ward, not in ICU, but was on oxygen for a week. Amazingly and very thankfully she pulled through and was discharged back home. She is one tough cookie.
Think we were all worried when the Government decided to start to lift the Lockdown rules. At first just allowing some people who couldn’t work from home, to go back to work where it was safe for them to do so. He also though, to the shock of most people in England, announced unrestricted travel. I think this, was thought by many, including myself to be too much, too soon. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland did not allow this new freedom.
People in England who were shielding were told that with effect from Monday 1st June they could go out for a walk with one member of their own household. This was a new freedom as thousands of people had been cooped up in flats or bedsits since the lockdown had begun on 23rd March. The weather was beautiful, as it had been for most of the Lockdown period, and I took the chance to escape my garden boundary and have my first walk for 2 months. Where did I go….believe it or not I walked through Whitby Cemetery on Helredale Road. Nice to check on some old friends and relatives, and it is always calm and peaceful there.
Hopefully the spread virus is slowing down, I’m not sure if it will ever be eradicated from our lives, maybe the world we are living in is the new Normal. Time will tell. All that I know is that our family have been lucky. We haven’t lost anybody. We are still all here to tell the tale. I think the one thing that I have learned from this is that the world can be a wonderful place.I joined in the clapping for the NHS and Carers from my front garden every Thursday. I have had time to sit in the garden and watch the clouds slowly passing overhead. I’ve heard the birds singing, watched them bring their young to feed for the first time and become almost attached to them. Especially the blackbird that follows me around the garden waiting for me to feed it!
Who knows what tomorrow will bring? All I know is that my family and friends will all be able to meet up again when the time is right. Not all families can say that. We are the lucky ones.
Sheila Parker