Surviving the pandemic and shielding my family

We meet Georgie, a 27 year old Support Worker who had to move out of her home to protect her family during the first wave of the pandemic

My name is Georgie, I’m 27 years of age and I work as a Support Worker for a Forensic Low Secure Mental Health Unit in Oxford where I have been working for the past 3 years, although I have been employed by Oxford Health NHS FT for the past 7 years. And this is some of my COVID journey so far.

I returned early to work, following a 3-month career break (should have been for a year), a week before lockdown began, so I had 1 normal week at work before everything changed.

From 1st April 2020 I had to pack my bags and move out as someone in my immediate family, who I live with, is in the high-risk vulnerable category. I barely had a chance to unpack after my career break, as I had been travelling (this had to be cut short due to COVID), I then had to pack again to move out to protect the spread to my family.

I moved into a hotel for over 3 months from the end of March 2020 until the middle of July 2020. It was a beautiful hotel, only open at the time to key workers. I had a king size room which had a bed, a desk and chair, a kettle, a TV, a mini fridge and a bathroom. This was now my ‘home’ for the time being. All I had with me was the one suitcase full of clothes and basic supplies.

I had very little money when I first moved in, so I could barely afford food. Food was not supplied by the hotel, the restaurant was still open, but the food remained at expensive hotel prices, luckily lunch was provided at work so the only meal I had to really worry about was dinner. I had to go home nearly every day to collect dinner from a chair in the front garden, which my Mum had cooked and placed in a container for me. Sometimes my colleagues got their dinner from Mum as well due to us all being in a similar boat. We had no cooking facilities. My Mum had to buy me things like laundry detergent and cupboard food as the fridge was not big enough to keep anything other than a pint of milk and maybe one meal.

Luckily enough for me, 2 of my colleagues also had to move out and into the same hotel as me, due to being in a similar situation so I was no longer alone. I don’t think I would have mentally coped if it wasn’t for my colleagues staying there and my family facetiming me regularly when I wasn’t on shift.

2 of us had lockdown birthdays which we celebrated as best we could give the circumstances. We shared a takeaway and ate cake and the hotel gave me a room with a bath instead of a shower and bath soak for the weekend (my proper room only had a shower and they knew I missed my baths) it was a lovely welcomed gesture.

I was supported at work by a great team of colleagues. I cannot fault them, every single member of staff pulled together, and we rallied through this difficult time. We had to go into a ward lockdown twice during the peak of COVID (the first time for around 1 month and the second time for around 2 weeks) due to having cases on the ward and we have since had to lockdown 3 more times (whilst waiting for the results so only a couple ) due to having suspected cases. Our patients handled this extremely well given the circumstances and I am so proud of them. It was such a relief for staff and patients when our ward lockdown finished, and they could finally have leave again even though it was only 1 hour a day to begin with. We were so grateful to our team at the time for handling everything to prioritise our patient’s mental health above anything else which is ultimately what we’re here for.

Finally, on July 15th, I moved home but still had obstacles to face. I had to shower as soon as I walked in the door (porch) plus boil my clothes in the washing machine. I had to clean everything I touched as we couldn’t take any risks. I had to eat my food separate from my family, on my days off I had to shower/use the bathroom last and sterilise after use (as per advice at the time), couldn’t share cutlery or utensils.

It wasn’t the best time of my life, I should have been young, free and travelling the world but I’m alive and all my family are safe, so I am grateful for that so far, we have all survived this horrible pandemic.

The highlight of all this is now I can cuddle my family which I missed so much.