My mobile phone rang.
I answered the call and my world fell apart.
My daughter-in-law Lucy said, “Andrew has been in a very bad car accident and they have just helicoptered him out to a hospital in Liverpool. They say it’s very bad so they don’t even know if he will survive.” Andrew is my eldest son, and I was shattered.
Covid had arrived early in our household. My husband’s cancer treatment was delayed for several months and my younger son, Alex and his wife were having their in vitro fertilization (IVF) delayed six months. We took this in stride and were prepared to navigate life in the new Covid world.
Yet, nothing prepared me to navigate that day, December 17th 2020 at 3:20 p.m..
I had just popped into a shop in Calais, northern France, our stopover town on our way to the UK for Christmas. It was there I took the call from Lucy.
I called the hospital immediately and was was told that my son had been put into an induced coma due to his head injuries and we would have to wait for news from Lucy. She had picked up their children and delivered them to her parents before making the two-hour drive to Liverpool. She wasn’t even sure that she could see Andrew as the UK was not allowing any visitors due to Covid. Andrew was in a precarious condition so they let Lucy in for 30 minutes. That was the last time she was to see him in person for 11 weeks.
Waiting, separation and waiting, waiting, waiting. We began the long hard wait. I have lived with Lucy and the children since the accident. My husband returned to Switzerland for his treatment. I haven’t seen him for almost four months and Covid travel rules means that we still don’t know when he can travel to join us.
I discovered that a person’s heart can ache. I don’t mean in the figurative sense, I mean my heart actually hurt. My chest felt heavy and there was a dull ache under my breast bone.
This very same heart that soothed Andrew as I held him to my chest as a baby was now denied even the chance to be near and touch my son.
On December 30th at 1:30 a.m. I received a call that my brother-in-law had died. This was the most important man in my life for many years after my parents died. He and my sister took me in and brought me up. This man had given me all the love and affection my young self needed. I was in the same country, but couldn’t attend the funeral nor be with my sister because of Covid restrictions.
I am strong. I am known as strong. I have used this strength to challenge difficult people in my work roles and have never feared to travel to difficult places if it meant I could do my job better. In my family I am the one people come to with issues. My sister says I manage to put things into boxes so I can deal with them one at a time and not become overwhelmed even in the worst situations.
But what if I couldn’t count on myself to handle this mountain of fear and grief? Both my son’s accident and my brother-in-law’s death hit me hard. Always being the strong one, it took me a couple of weeks to realize that I needed help.
Luckily, a good Irish friend recognized that I was not thinking about my own significance and she listened and guided me in a gentle way to a better place. She questioned the way I was dealing with my feelings and did so in a way that helped me face my fears. She made me realize that help was there if I was willing to take it, both help from within myself as well as from those around me. I will be forever grateful to her. She became even more significant in my life in these last few months pushing and reminding me to look after myself so I could look after others.
At the same time there was this strong network of people around our family who stepped up and offered all kinds of help. Covid made it difficult to meet in person but we received such wonderful letters, emails, calls and did FaceTime sessions. I have been astounded by where the help has come from and by the level of commitment to be there throughout this time. It has made a significant difference to all of the family.
I would never want anyone to go through trials like the ones I experienced, yet I know many families were doing just that as their loved ones faced health problems or fought Covid.
Like me, I imagine others had their self identity shaken and hopefully had others they could count on to give them support and strength.
The virus has changed the way we work, travel and how we interact with each other. Young people have had to put their lives on hold, older people’s lives have been put in danger and we have all lost many freedoms. We need to ask ourselves “ Have we made people feel significant during these times?” “Have we thought about ourselves and our reaction to the virus?” Have we looked after ourselves?” My story is one of thousands in this new world and even if you haven’t been touched directly by the virus you will find that in some way your life will have been impacted.
For me, the pandemic magnified the importance of taking care of myself and accepting love and support from the people who care about me. I plan to take this lesson into my future and hope others do as well.
Andrew has gradually recovered 85% of his faculties, a great result. Physically he has done really well and now the focus is on his mental health. He is learning to write again and to become independent once more. He remains in rehab and will be there until the end of May, when hopefully he will come home. I still haven’t seen him, nor have his children. His wife Lucy has been able to visit him one hour three times a week since the end of March. We were so very lucky to have this outcome.
As for Alex, on March 7, 2021 Ray Studer was born, IVF worked the first time around.