THE ISOLATION GENERATION STORY

The Isolation Generation brand is a celebration of the resilience, solidarity, kindness & sense of community that flourished as a result of the pandemic. 

 A time where wealth, race, pronouns, age & religion no longer mattered. It was a time where not all, but most, considered the health & welfare of others as much as or before their own. 

We all knew someone vulnerable, we all knew a key worker & unfortunately as time has marched on we all know someone who has lost someone close as a result of the virus.  

Michelle is the founder & passion behind Isolation Generation® & this is her story.

 

So many have been affected by the Coronavirus pandemic & for many of us life will never quite be the same as a result. 

On the 17th March 2020, my dear Dad was once again admitted to A&E with another water infection. 

He had been ill for a number of years & following each hospital stay his health never quite bounced back to way it was before being admitted. 

The Coronavirus was beginning to hit the headlines & the paramedics that tended to Dad apologised for not wearing PPE, they’d run out earlier that day & no more was available. 

Transmission details were a little hazy then & the guidance at that time was wash your hands thoroughly while merrily singing happy birthday to yourself.

So armed with my anti bacterial gel I followed the ambulance to the local A&E department.

The medical & support staff in A&E were as always brilliant but quite obviously run off their feet. All were wearing masks & all were washing their hands every time they passed a basin, as well as after tending to each patient. 

Dad was admitted, but we’d done this dance many times before so I kissed him on the head like I always did, told him I loved him & said I’d see him soon. 

Not long after being admitted patients were no longer allowed visitors, more data was coming in & airborne transmission was confirmed. 

The only contact we had with our Dad was via mobile phone, however due to his water infection he was confused a lot of the time & unable to give my sister or I detailed update on his condition. 

We called the ward for further updates but found the staff we were speaking to were drafted in from other wards & unable to help or only able to give us the very briefest of updates. 

Understandably the hospital was in chaos, dedicated Covid-19 wards had been created & the knock on logistics involved in order isolate & protect staff & patients had no doubt become a nightmare. 

It was a frustrating & helpless situation for staff, patients & their concerned families.

Still the government updates kept coming, the graphs they shared became more alarming & then came the school closures. 

I’m sure I’m not the only one at this point who though ‘Wow this s***just got real’, but we all told ourselves it was going to be an extended school holiday & all will be back to 'normal' soon enough. 

But the roads became eerily deserted & we were told only to leave the house to buy essentials.

Dentist appointments cancelled, hair appointments cancelled, holidays cancelled, restaurant bookings cancelled. 

Even Mcdonalds closed their hatches which, given the ‘fast & open 24 hours ‘ culture we’d become accustomed to, seemed quite a significant moment.

It was at this point parents, me included had to downplay what was exactly unfolding in the world outside of our household ‘bubble’.

Our children asked us questions we simply could not answer. 

"When am I going back to school?"

"Will I still have a birthday party?"

"Can I catch Covid?"

Most heartbreakingly for me & many other families the world wide over - "When can I see Grandad again?"

By now Dad had tested positive for Covid-19. He was moved to another part of the hospital & again our only contact with him was via mobile phone. 

His ongoing heart & kidney failure & low oxygen levels meant these conversations were even harder to decipher. 

He was still confused but now also frustrated & scared. I tried to have a brief conversation with him following his move to an isolation ward but due to his frustration & fear he became irritated & ended the call. 

That would be the last time I'd speak with him. 

Around this time I also fell ill, it had been 2 eventful weeks since Dad & I were in A&E which is presumably where we caught the virus.

I was cold, I left my desk & had a bath to warm myself up.

Following a bath that could not warm me up my head began hurting like no other headache I’ve had before & every one of my joints felt like they were on fire. It even hurt to move my eyes. I was in no doubt I too now had Covid-19.

Through the following 12 hour cycle of fever & chills I packed a hospital bag. I’ve been asthmatic most of my life & if what all the experts were saying was true then I was in for a rough time & may need to be admitted to hospital too. 

Though I was extremely poorly over the next 48 hours I thankfully did not need to be hospitalised, hospital at this point was for those that really needed it, like Pops.  

I was managing my symptoms at home with the support of my husband & dear friends who unselfishly put their own health at risk to help pick up groceries & the like for us. 

On the 5th April 2020 my sister called me. She was at Dad’s bedside after agreeing with the medical staff to wear a substantial amount of PPE and now she was finally able to hold his hand after days apart from him. 

He was no longer conscious & I can remember her voice & the words she spoke so clearly “Shell, I’m sorry, he hasn’t got long.”

I just remember sobbing knowing I was never going to see him again. I wouldn’t get chance to plant that final kiss on his head & tell him I love him like I always did when I said goodbye. 

My sister asked if I’d like her to place the phone to his ear, in case he could still hear & so I could speak to him, which she did. 

It’s my dearest hope that he heard me say how much I loved him, how thankful I was he was my Dad, how much we would all miss him & how brave a fighter he had been through his past few years of life. 

I reluctantly ended the call & cried myself into a restless sleep. 

I was woken by the sound of my phone with the notification ‘Dad calling’.

I knew it wasn’t Dad. My sisters phone had run out of charge so she had to use his old faithful Nokia to call me instead. 

I stared at the phone, not wanting to answer it because I didn’t want to wake up to a day in a world that my Dad was no longer part of. 

6th April 2020, a life changing day where we had to break the hearts of his four grandchildren & explain Grandad wouldn’t be coming home this time. My sister & I had to navigate their grief as well as our own & reassure them that not everyone that has Covid-19 will pass away. 

I lost myself in the administration that’s involved when a loved one passes away. Something else I had to navigate for the first time & early restrictions on funerals meant we weren’t able to celebrate Dad’s life the way we would have liked. 

Instead we added Dad to the book of condolence registered with St Pauls Cathedral, along with purchasing a beautifully crafted steel leaf with the word ‘Hope’.

This leaf was one of 5000 & part of an installation designed to honour those who have lost their lives, but also to allow everyone to take a moment to contemplate what we have been through and to think about loved ones.

Summer 2020 was especially hard for me mentally, things were beginning to feel a little more normal but new norms had also been added to everyday life. 

To the outside world I seemed to be handling my grief well all things considered, I had the odd wobble but was able to hold a very matter of fact conversation about Dad & his passing relatively well. 

However inside I felt raw, overwhelmed & just one panic buying, sharp elbowed shopper away from losing my s***!

Like most I’d had mental health issues in my past & I was a master at hiding it but this time it was different, this time I had an example to set for my daughter. 

I needed to show her that with grief it’s ok to cry, it’s ok to remember with a smile & that it is also ok to ask for help if you’re struggling.

I therefore set out to find a grief counsellor & it was following one of these therapy sessions I looked back on the pandemic & the social changes, temporary & permanent that had come about because of it. Had we unwittingly become ‘richer’ as a result of the pandemic? A richness in kindness, tolerance & understanding? 

We’d begun asking people if they wanted help, we didn’t wait until they asked for it. 

We checked in on our vulnerable neighbours, left a food parcel or two. 

We spent precious time with our immediate families, even if our houses felt very small days, especially when home schooling!

We exercised more & appreciated our outsides spaces more.

We’d stop & socially distance chat with people we only knew by sight.

We made new friendships & reconnected with old friends & estranged family.

We collectively realised just how important super fast broadband really is!

We had more time to watch folks make t*** of themselves on TikTok or got creative & had a go ourselves. 

Most importantly we did our absolute best to stay positive. To stop, take a moment, look around & appreciate what we do have. 

Isolation Generation is a celebration of all these wonderful things & more!

Typically a generation is classed as around 25 years though in this instance it describes those living at the same time & experiencing the same things. 

Our Isolation Generations includes those babies made in lockdown right all the way up to those that have been on this earth more years than they care to remember, but most definitely grew more fabulous with age!

I realised we all wear our own Covid-19 scars in some way. Be it through the loss of someone close, being a key worker in amongst the thick or it, or finding yourself unemployed as a result of it.

Whilst sat contemplating I also recalled a time where Dad said to me "All you can do is the make the most of what you've got kid, make it count". This is exactly what I'm doing & something we should all give ourselves time & space to do. 

Isolation Generation exists to remind us to always be kind & mindful that scars aren’t always visible on the outside. But should you wish to wear something on the outside to show your support, pride, or resilience then you’ve certainly come to the right place!

Reading Michelle’s story may have been an emotional trigger for some,  if you feel you need support you can find help & resources here