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While My Sister Slept...

So, 2020 started out like any other new year – full of hope, promise, opportunity and the odd new year’s resolution that would be broken within the week! Then in March the world appeared to begin to turn in the opposite direction, the Virus, Covid-19 was here and we were in Lockdown.

For me, it meant being vigilant as I was vulnerable due to diabetes. I was given a laptop, started working from home and hoped, like everyone, the Virus would be beaten very soon. I lived alone so it was easy to avoid others and my daughter safely dropped my shopping off on the doorstep for me. I waved to my grandson from the safety of my front door step with him sitting in the car. I kept in daily touch with my Sister by phone – she was still working; she had retired after thirty-nine years nursing and had returned, a year before, to work two days per week. She increased her hours to help out as the Virus took a grip and the NHS was under pressure.

"For there is no friend like a sister in calm or stormy weather; To cheer one on the tedious way, to fetch one if one goes astray, to lift one if one totters down, to strengthen whilst one stands."

-Christina Rossetti

My sister rang after a night shift and told me she had a high temperature, felt unwell and had no sense of taste or smell; she had a COVID-19 test and it came back positive. A niggling sense of worry came over me but I managed to push it down and remained positive. My Sister, despite some health problems, was strong and a fighter. After a few days, my Sister rang me and told me she had had to get an ambulance to take her to hospital as she had trouble breathing. She was on oxygen and felt much improved. A surge of panic rushed through my body but I managed to overcome it and felt positive that my Sister would be home again soon.

"Sister is probably the most competitive relationship within the family, but once the sisters are grown, it becomes the strongest relationship."

-Margaret Mead

A few days later they were planning to discharge my Sister, all was well and she was looking forward to going home, so all was right with the world. I was managing working from home, going for a daily walk, living alone, following Lockdown rules and getting on with life; pleased my Sister was getting better.

Then, within a matter of hours, the world appeared to collapse around me. My Sister deteriorated very rapidly and at 03:45am one morning my phone rang and the doctor informed me my Sister was very sick and had been placed on a Ventilator! I recall feeling as if I could not breath, trying to keep calm and ask questions – I needed to know everything. After the call, I was aware I was hyperventilating and had to get some control back, so, with great effort, concentrated and practiced some deep breathing and got control back – enough to phone the family and give them the news.

"Is solace anywhere more comforting than that in the arms of a sister."

-Alice Walker

The next few days were painful, scary, upsetting, confusing and a roller coaster of emotions as my Sister’s condition worsened, then stablised, then worsened again. I was emotionally exhausted and realised I was not caring for myself properly – not eating, not exercising and not taking control of the situation. The uncertainty was unbearable and not being able to visit my Sister made things feel worse. The daily updates from the hospital were my lifeline and when the news was not good, I had to find a way to manage my feelings; my family were depending on me to relay the updates and I needed to make sure they understood what was going on.

"Sisters function as safety nets in a chaotic world simply by being there for each other."

-Carol Saline

So, I had a word with myself and each day I went for my daily walk; I pounded the streets, building up to 10k every day! I used this time to listen to music and to reflect and take control of my feelings. I used the time wisely and positively and the rewards were great – my thought processes were much clearer.

I set myself four tasks a day – easily achievable tasks, anything from cleaning the bath, to sorting out much neglected cupboards and drawers, to reading or having a face mask. I found that the more easily achievable the tasks were, the easier it was to complete them. I made sure I ate regularly – I needed to look after my diabetes and keep that well controlled; I went to bed at set times and got up in the morning, to give myself some routine and structure which helped me feel in control, peaceful and settled.

I was lucky to have love and support from my son, daughter, brothers, friends and the rest of our large family, but I was physically alone a lot of the time. I gave myself permission to be sad and worried and upset; I allowed myself to cry – this was a very sad time and my Sister, asleep for nineteen days in total, was still very sick. However, I felt that, taking whatever control I could of a situation that I had little control of, taking care of myself and giving myself permission to cry when I needed to helped me get through the dark days. I reached inside and found inner strength that I did not realise I had; inner strength, strategies and the ability to meet difficulties head on and with confidence which are now in my tool box to use in the future.

Then, the call came to say that my Sister had turned a corner and it looked like she was going to survive. She woke up from this long sleep and we face timed – the joy was indescribable. This was the best news ever and a week later my Sister was discharged home to our absolute pleasure.

"Husbands come and go; children come and eventually they go. Friends grow up and move away. But the one thing that's never lost is your sister."

-Gail Sheehy

There is no denying that these were very dark times tinged with worry, fear and dread at times but taking a step back, considering my options and deciding to meet this full on, helped me to survive and equipped with the ability to take on anything else that life throws at me. If you ever find that you are in such a dark and difficult place and are feeling overwhelmed, look inside yourself, you will be pleasantly surprised at what you find.

“You may be as different as the sun and the moon, but the same blood flows through both your hearts. You need her, as she needs you.”

—George R.R. Martin

Thank you for reading

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