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A little Coronavirus Story from Isolation in EL Maestrat

PLEASE READ UPDATE AT VERY END!

Full moon, March 10, 2020, El Maestrat
Full moon rising through my window, March 10th, 2020 between trips

It had to come. Yet another coronavirus story. I am certainly not going to moan for I feel very fortunate, even though I, like so many immigrants, have had my share of stress from Brexit and now from this. And I am not going to go into statistics with all the excellent coverage you can read in The Guardian. This is just my little experience which incidentally spans several continents..

As usual I have no idea how to start so I will just spurt it out. 

For me, the impact began before I knew it did. I had a strange dry cough in December, then again in the middle of January.  In between I never felt well and lost weight. Of course it was almost impossible to be THE virus, and actually I thought I had throat cancer as I could hardly swallow and my ears hurt.  No mucus, no other pain. Slight fever one day. The doctor prescribed an inhaler, and one batch of antibiotics after another, more due to the ears than anything else.  I had a number of planes to take and the landings were extremely painful, Once I seriously thought my ears would explode.

But the real date it started was January 21 when my 92-year-old mother had a serious stroke in Holland. She could not walk, had lost the use of her right arm and was suffering from delirium.  After a course of more antibiotics, January 29th I caught a plane, burying my head in my coat as I hacked all the way to Holland. I would not have wanted to be next to me. 

My cousin picked me up and said, “You look dreadful”.  I took her word for it as I had not dared to take a look myself. For 8 days I coughed at night and glued myself to an inhaler during the day, aided by Dutch “drop” .  Seeing my mother was traumatic as she did not know who I was and I did not want to pass anything on.  She was clearly not in her right mind, call it what you will, However, she could actually speak well in both English and Dutch, even if she spoke Dutch to me and English to the nurses!  Each visit her age changed until it reached 3002.  I am very very very old, she explained. Very.

Please realize that Holland was not in lock down yet, and the hospital was full of other visitors coughing away as badly as myself. Just before you point the finger.

 I eventually left Holland for the UK with a heavy heart. My mother was already gone and in her place was basically a child from many years past.

In Liverpool I helped my son Charlie plan his USA travelling adventure.  He was very excited as he already had 3 concerts booked.   His house was rented out and he had saved a bit of money during the last year for this life experience.  In addition he had just recorded with a well known producer and it seemed all would go well.  The only down side was he just could not manage to pass his driving test. Maybe an omen?  Also the fact that his ticket had been with the ill-fated Thomas Cook.

Monserrat, March 24, 2020

 I returned to Spain with him to try and get passage to The Americas.  We holed up in the spectacular monastery town of Monserrat above Barcelona- it was swamped by numerous stranded Chinese tourists, complete with masks. By this time Charlie was getting anxious as I was still coughing and had developed mouth and nose ulcers.  Our hostel stank of industrial disinfectant. In hindsight I know why. 

We escaped ASAP and went to a Parador in Cardona. This is not being racist; We were simply becoming aware of the scale of Coronavirus which still seemed to be restricted mainly to Chinese from China.

 

The Parador, although stunning, was not unlike a prison inside, especially the geriatric bar with its sagging wooden furniture and stained cushions. In the day we escaped once again and roamed around the town below. We drank far too much.  There were no tourists, just one bar mania an ancient old bar just the way I like them. Much to Charlie’s alarm he had a hacking cough and was chucking down cava.

I joined him.

We had a great time.  A special mother and son time with lots of talking and cards games. All the alcohol seemed to improve my cough.  My ulcers started to heal. And I got Charlie onto a flight to NYC from Barcelona.

Then back to Holland.  Thinner than ever despite the excesses! Happy to be thin.  No symptoms anymore.   My mother vaguely remembered me, but not who I was. She was ecstatic. My husband came too and for 2 days we entertained her. No other word. Day 3 I realised that I should fill her in on the world news. She listened carefully. It sunk in with frequent repetition, kind of…

Day 4 Holland closed all hospitals and care homes to visitors, even partners. I was devastated for I felt that I might never see my mother again. At the same time Spain announced a total shut down of most everything.  Hubbie flew back to Liverpool and I holed up with my cousin and a mad parrot. 

 Day 5 Holland followed much of Spain’s example and I tried to find an earlier flight back to Valencia. None to be found but plenty of cancellations. Two more days passed and I smelt that I was no longer welcome. You need to go home, my cousin kept on saying. I totally agreed with her.

With an amazing amount of luck, I managed to board my original 21.00 Valencia flight on a rainy Monday night The airport commerces were shuttered and even the public charging sockets turned off.  Once on board we sat for a long time, The plane was, at most, 25% occupied. No tourists of course, just desperate Spanish praying to get home. One coughing over us all. An older lady in tears. The Spanish borders officially closed at midnight, but we landed at 2.30 am.   The place was deserted apart from a gaggle of policemen – definitely not keeping a social distance. I half-expected to be arrested and ran to my car while their cars patrolled up and down the airport lanes, looking for whatever.

The 90 minute trip home was somewhat like an apocalypse. It was accompanied by pelting, horizontal rain, huge articulated lorries presumably carrying supermarket supplies and two police vehicles that zoomed past in either direction. NOT ONE CAR.  Seriously. I planed at least 5 times across the lanes in the torrential downpour and if the traffic had been as usual, I hate to think what would have happened.  I could hardly see.  But as I inched closer to my masia, the torrent gave way a to gentle soft rain. Then, finally, circa 4.30 am. I was home. Chica danced with joy and I collapsed weeping. 

P.S. Charlie’s trip coincided with Donald Trump realizing that the coronavirus was not just a minor cold.  Please, could someone give him a crash course in common sense? Will not say what else I think. NYC has become a hotbed of infection.  All Charlie’s concerts were cancelled and the airBnB he had arranged in his next destination Nashville was hit by a tornado and destroyed!  His job there was gone. 

So my son, still not realizing the extent of the calamity about to hit The States, as I hadn’t either, took a 34 hour train ride (no food on the train, but chargers and internet) to New Orleans to escape the plague.  The train stopped for 2 hours in Mississippi as it was announced that New Orleans was going into lockdown too. I called every person I knew, Enter my friend Miho who had escaped with her man to, of all places, Paraguay, She found a plane from New Orleans for Charlie and his precious classic guitar the next day. So 34 hours train + 1 night little sleep + 13.5 hours plane + 7 hours transport in UK = total fatigue and a very long period of self-isolation – for him, and yes for me. 

P.S.S.  Mum is in quarantine with her partner in Holland and so far fine. Even trying to dance a little from her wheelchair! Click below and also Wahtch Ina’s Garden with video footage from a child even. Her test for the virus is in 7 days.  One son left in NYC working from home. Xxx

P.S.S.S. – why do Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock only have to self-isolate for 7 days when we are told 14 days??  I mean, we who are not positive, and they who are. Or are they? Why do so many politcians say “I have symptoms so am self-isolating”, yet do not have a test? Any cold has symptoms so symptoms without tests mean nothing. Are we supposed to look to these politicians as an example?  Bear in mind that Prince Charles’s last public engagement was 12 days before he became symptomatic.  Even he has only self-isolated for 7 days! I am confused, but I can state that f I did have a job, I would know what to say to get off work! In the meantime viva the countries like Germany and South Korea that do the right thing. A little video below to lighten this all up:

https://youtu.be/_szac5HhLQY

P.S.S.S.S. My sister Sonia Swart, who is the CEO of Northampton Hospital has explained the above confusion to me – “7 days after infection to make sure you don’t transmit infection then risk of transmission has passed.  Everyone else is isolated to stop spread. Population distancing needed for months in case people pass it in when they are shedding the virus either symptomatic or not.” So now I understand!

12 Comments

  1. M.N.
    March 30, 2020
    Reply

    It is wonderful to see beautiful images with the story! I hope to see it more often! I always have to wait next issue eagerly! Thank you for writing personal insights. It gives us very intimate feeling with the subjects you write.
    After reading each issues, I feel as if I received beautiful scent from nature.
    Thank you.

    • stephanie de leng
      March 30, 2020

      Thank you so much. Now I have more time and how lucky I am.x

  2. carol charlton
    March 30, 2020
    Reply

    Wow! What a tumultuous time you’ve had. Juggling your health, your mothers, worried for your kids, backwards and forwards with your race against time!. But it seems you have reached the best space with everything more or less calm by now, except of course for the one still in New York. (but I’m sure he’s savvy enough to look after himself!) Lets hope the beautiful Maestrat will bring you back to full health and we can roam the Bodegas again.
    Thanks for publishing your ‘Virus’ journey…I’m sure it helps people with families abroad and vulnerable relatives to read other people’s stories and know they are not alone. Looking forward to the next adventure!!

    • stephanie de leng
      March 31, 2020

      As I said, I am lucky compared to many. Thank you for your feedback!

  3. Tim
    March 30, 2020
    Reply

    Wow – glad everyone got home safe. Stressful times.

    • stephanie de leng
      March 30, 2020

      I hope so. I just wanted to post a different story, not one of misery. Just one trying to cope with the horrible suffering around. As I said , I am fortunate. Thank you so much for your comment!

  4. Anonymous
    March 31, 2020
    Reply

    Great read+ photos Mum, lots of love, Charlie

    • stephanie de leng
      March 31, 2020

      haha Charlie – so glad you read it! Happy you are doing well xx

  5. MBM
    March 31, 2020
    Reply

    Me gusta leer estas vivencias y quiero desear mucha suerte a todos, cuando antes que termine esta enfermedad y podamos ver brillar la primavera. Salud.

    • stephanie de leng
      March 31, 2020

      Muchas gracias. y yo también!

  6. Anonymous
    March 31, 2020
    Reply

    A great read. Lucky with the US thing. My biz partner managed to get what ended up being her last plane home to Michigan. Stay inside! Lots of love To you all, Toby Goodman x

    • stephanie de leng
      March 31, 2020

      Likewise xx

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