Fear

Fear. It creeps up on you, doesn’t it?

The whole situation with coronavirus has been a perfect breeding ground really.

I’ve written before about how my anxiety levels seem just naturally higher these days. It started when becoming a stay at home mum: my horizons narrowed and I was no longer pushed to do things that I found stressful. A few years later Pudding’s diagnosis came and things suddenly became that much more limited and worrisome.

And then a worldwide pandemic. Boom! Horizons reduced even further. We’ve been lucky: our home and garden have been very much a safe space for us. With the exception of sporadic trips out for exercise we’ve pretty much stayed put. Yet now shielding advice has been changing and I’ve known for a while that I’d need to venture out into the world again.

Scary.

Logically I know that the risk of me catching anything on a quick trip to the shops is minimal. I can tell myself that till I’m blue in the face. But of course brains don’t always work like that. Logic doesn’t always win over fear.

Last week I beat that fear in a small way. I stepped inside a building other than my house for the first time since the 21st March. It was only taking a parcel to the post office and I’d already paid the postage online. There was one other customer in the shop and it actually wasn’t at all scary.

We will definitely not be going wild and having a family trip to the pub anytime soon, but it felt like a positive step taken.

And then, this weekend the fear bubbled up again. Or should I call it anxiety? Sometimes I know exactly what has triggered it: an argument on social media, a TV programme I’ve watched that has touched a nerve. Sometimes it takes me a while to pinpoint what the cause was.

This time it was a letter received from the government on Friday – a letter that said Pudding is still considered to be in the ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ group and should remain shielding until August.

cuddle

I know that those letters aren’t always accurate (see below for the explanation) and I know that his consultant was happy for us to start easing into normal life a little more. But I’m obviously well conditioned to respond to authority, despite my reservations about the current government, and that letter tickles all those ‘but what if…?’ nerves.

Logic taking another little holiday.

Well, the weather this weekend hasn’t been very conducive to getting out anywhere anyway. So I have been doing the next best thing – plenty of cuddles with Pudding. Very much like a therapy pet, it is impossible to stay stressed for too long with that soft, warm snuggly body pressed into you.

Fairly difficult to breathe too when he’s lying on top of you, but I’ll take that side effect any day!

 

Shielding letters: at the start of lockdown consultants helped identify groups of patients that could be most vulnerable to the effects of Covid19. All diseases/conditions are described by a code – a bit like the Dewey Decimal system for books. So Pudding’s condition would come under Inherited metabolic conditions, then lysosomal storage condition, then mucopolysaccharidosis, then MPS II Hunter Syndrome. (Don’t quote me on this by the way – I’m not sure of the exact breakdowns, but using this just as an example.) But when the NHS database was accessed in order to send out these letters the data was not able to be broken down in such detail. Therefore, rather than sending out letters to patients with Hunter Syndrome who also have particular risk due to airway issues, a much wider group of patients were targeted. If you have a shielding letter but are not certain whether it should apply to you or vice versa, I’d recommend talking to your consultant to get more individual advice.

Why MPS Awareness now?

A couple of days ago I wrote on Twitter that it felt strange shouting about MPS Awareness Week at a time like this. After all, why should anyone care about a rare condition that no-one has ever heard of, when they’ve all got their own worries at the moment?

But the more I think about it, the more relevant it does seem.

I suppose it also follows on from my last post – Trapped – that I’d completely forgotten about until coming on here just now. (Unsurprising. It was written a whole two months ago.)

Covid-19 has brought the whole world to a standstill. Normal life no longer seems real.  People are worried about the future, worrying about whether they can still work. Dealing with stomach-churning anxiety when doing the simplest of tasks. Stuck indoors and isolated from everyone else. We clap the NHS every week.

Welcome to the world of an MPS parent.

IMG_20170109_180120Listening to the emotions that many are going through during lockdown brings back memories of the time we were first told that Pudding had MPSII (Hunter Syndrome). It was a bombshell, rocking our world. All plans went out the window. I felt like I was stuck on a rollercoaster, my heart constantly lodged in my throat and life became more about hospitals and than school sports days, and NHS staff became my heroes. As time went by, Pudding’s behaviour often made it easier to stay at home away from other families who would point and make rude comments. Isolation among MPS families (as with others dealing with disability) is common.

But the analogy doesn’t hold up for long.

Covid-19 is a horrible virus, that spreads easily and has caused many deaths. But we will see an end to the chaos eventually. Scientists are working flat-out on vaccines and treatments. And until then, unless you are in one of the vulnerable groups (which include many people with MPS) there is a good chance that you will pull through.

Some types of MPS do have better treatments right now. But particularly for those with progressive MPS 2 or 3, once the crisis of Covid-19 is over, the future still doesn’t look bright. Once we have been handed that diagnosis we know what the future will bring, and it is not one that any parent wants to hear.

I don’t mean to underplay this trauma that everyone is going through right now – after all, we’re going through it too. But I hope it explains why I will still shout louder about MPS awareness at this time.

Please join me on Twitter or Facebook on the 15th May in wearing blue (or purple internationally) – we’d love to see your pictures.