I usually write my blog on Monday for publication on Tuesday. Sometimes I write it on Sunday, planning and all that being an important thing. As is consistency. Every Tuesday. Without fail. Why Tuesday? Well, why not? It’s not Monday and it’s not Wednesday when you are thinking it’s nearly passed halfway through the week. It seems to work for us. Well. It has up to now. This week has been hard.
This weekend was ANZAC Day in New Zealand. Other countries have Remembrance Day or Veteran’s Day. 25th April is our day to remember. People all over the country attend dawn services and pay their respects. This year was no exception. As I left my house in my Scout uniform with my children I glanced at my mobile phone and saw a message from my step-sister in the UK asking me to call her. I instantly knew my day was about to get a whole lot worse.
My Step-Mother, who lives in the UK, had been in hospital for quite some time. Since October 2020. She’d suffered a stroke and was supposed to be having rehabilitation. It’s hard to arrange in a pandemic situation. The NHS was stretched to capacity even before Covid-19. It’s even worse now. Overworked, underpaid staff pushed to deal with as many people as they can. I guess it’s inevitable that some slip through the cracks.
She didn’t just slip – it’s almost like she was pushed through the gaps in the health system. First sent to a ‘nursing’ home that was actually sheltered housing, where for some reason she took too many blood thinners. We never discovered how it happened. She was rushed back to hospital where my father and her daughter were called to say their goodbyes. Removal of medicine – and all food and drink too it seemed, encouraged her daughter to feed and water her Mother herself. They were in a side room that wasn’t regularly cleaned next to a Covid ward.
With the encouragement of family and friends, she began to significantly improve. She was smiling and laughing, was able to talk coherently and was determined to go home.
She was put back on a ward with other patients which the hospital said meant she could no longer receive visitors. Her health improved a little, then began to decline. She was again sent to a nursing home for rehabilitation, but rarely had opportunity to get out of bed. She was allowed one visitor, once a week. She was doing better. My Dad was even going to take her to a dentist to get her bottom false teeth replaced because hers had been lost by the hospital months earlier.
Then she fell whilst in the care of the home. She was sent back to hospital. My Dad was told she was too frail to use her mobile phone or tablet. He didn’t know what was wrong. He wasn’t sure why she’d gone back to hospital. Worse, nobody was allowed to visit.
Her daughter and my father were called at the weekend. This time there was nothing they could do. She had deteriorated so badly and it was thought she’d caught an infection. She died Saturday afternoon GMT, Sunday morning NZT.
An unwitting victim of Covid-19 and a litany of errors and issues with care. Not counted in official figures of course, yet still a victim of the pandemic and the stress it’s caused to the health system in the UK.
I am bereft. She was my Stepmother but had been kinder than my own birth mother, who was a narcissist and a bully. My Step-Mum showed me incredible kindness and love. In return I did what daughters do. I complained about her, I forgot her birthday often and didn’t call as much as I should. But I loved our conversations. She loved my children like her own grandchildren, and she taught me that family is more than having blood relations.
What does this have to do with Parkinson’s? Well I guess not much, but it reminds us all how very lucky we are, especially in New Zealand, to have (so far) missed the bullet that is Covid-19. I want to fly back to Yorkshire to comfort my father, yet I’d face isolation quarantine, and more importantly, the threat of Covid. I read that Parkinson’s may be one condition that may be exacerbated by Covid. Even if this is not true, I don’t plan on finding out.
Grieving via video-call is not quite the same thing. My children and I have talked at length about her and our grief and sadness is real, but we have no other family to share it with. I have a small family. I want to be with them, but I must stay away.
Because I have cried so much I have been exhausted, which means my sleep patterns are stuffed, which means I’ve not been exercising. I need to do that. I know it’s what she would want. I must try harder, do better at looking after myself. My symptoms have been worse this week.
She spent her life volunteering with the St John Ambulance, of which she was so very proud. She raised heaps for breast cancer care. She believed in helping others and doing the right thing. I will forever hold her close in my heart and can only hope that I can help as many people as she did. I will try my best to reach out and continue to encourage people to live life to the full.
ANZAC Day will forever hold more poignancy for my family. Lest we forget.
Until next time, Kitty.
Kitty Fitton is a motivational speaker, MC and comedian. She is also a full-time blogger and writer. She is mother to four small people and was very cross to discover she had Parkinson’s Disease.
Find out more at her personal site below.
Emma Kyriacou is a real-life ninja. Taking up Karate to help fight her Parkinson’s Disease, she’s co-founder of Good Moves and is passionate about promoting exercise to improve mobility and neuroplasticity. (Is that a word? It should be.)
Find out more at her personal site below.