Behind so many of the services and support we provide are a team of dedicated, hard-working volunteers supporting our vision and improving lives for people with Crohn's and Colitis.
Like many others, the people behind these roles have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and, this Volunteers' Week, we found out what the past year had meant for them.
As a Pharmacist, during Covid we were busier than ever; we immediately changed our clinics to telephone clinics and streamlined our monitoring requirements so enabling us to still keep initiating and monitoring patients medications to ensure that they were as well as possible and avoid hospital contact and/or becoming an inpatient during the pandemic. The helpline contact increased as patients and healthcare professionals required more support on medication use, IBD and how Covid affected both of these factors and the resources provided by the Crohn's & Colitis UK were invaluable at this time. We had to balance our work in the IBD team with supporting other pharmacy roles (e.g. dispensary work, ward cover) and roll out of Covid vaccination clinics to help with the national effort for patient safety too.
As far as I can judge the Covid Pandemic has not had too bad an effect on my general physical mental well-being. As somebody who is used to living their my own I am used to ‘fending’ for myself and creating my own activities & interests. Therefore any time that I have needed to isolate (very few & of short duration fortunately!) I have been able to continue my life fairly normally, given the restraints of the various stages of the pandemic lockdown processes. All my normal medical procedures for my Crohn’s & other conditions have fortunately gone ahead as usual since March 2020, though some consultations (especially if things were fine) have become by Telephone rather than Face-to-face. What has been difficult is being unable to meet personally with groups of people (friends, organisations & family etc.) that I normally would do. Although this has been made easier by the use of technology such as ZOOM etc.; it’s not as good as the ‘Real Thing’!
I have missed being able to organise our coffee morning and other events. So I wanted to be able to give my time to the charity and being able to help others to have some social interaction and support as lockdown has been very hard for many. I've tried to keep some engagement on our Facebook page, it has been difficult as a Network we have all had varying personal situations to deal with so engagement hasn't been as much as I would have liked.
I was in the extremely vulnerable category list so was shielding for all of lockdown. Volunteering has allowed me to hear a wide range of experiences from a range of people which has not only helped me learn about the condition more broadly but also given me guidance on how I could better manage my own condition.
This last year has made me realise how in 'normal circumstances', I have more fear about what I eat, more fear about toilet access, more fear about letting people down and social events, especially going out for food. This last year has given me time to adapt and focus on me. I do not fight my body anymore, I have stopped trying to control my body and have the expectation of 'being like everyone else'. Instead I listen to my body and I am learning to put it first. It's a marathon not a sprint after all.
I’ve worked harder and longer hours, mostly remotely. I’ve hardly been seeing friends in person but catching up on the phone and managing to see family as they live close by and we made a bubble. I was exercising a lot initially as nothing else to do, but then less in later lockdowns.
Aside from doing the virtual events, our local team have catch-ups every couple of months just to stay in touch and share all our gossip. We've always been a really sociable group of friends so it has been difficult not seeing each other so much but when we do chat over Zoom it's great to hear everyone's news and know that they are keeping well as best they can given the circumstances.
I found the most difficult thing was not being able to see my family, especially my 3 young grandchildren, although I did bubble up to do some childcare in the autumn. It’s a time in their young lives where they change so quickly so Zoom story times were a godsend but also quite heart-breaking too when waving goodbye.
I’d also like to say how amazing the staff team have been in their support for me, always checking I’m ok and being there with help and advice. This was the case before but feel we’ve all been more aware of the pandemic affecting each other and our families too and the need to look after each other more.