Health & wellbeing

Close encounters – human connection in times of difficulty

06 Aug 2021 | Written by Sandra Falconer


Pandemic relationships

This week, member Sandra Falconer has written about her recent experience of being hospitalised with the COVID-19 virus. In this blog post she shares her feelings on how times of difficulty can reveal the true value of human connection. Returning to health, Sandra offers an inspiring reminder that we should cherish the people in our lives and remember to nurture the relationships that matter the most.

Beaten down by the symptoms of the dreaded pestilence, I at last surrendered to the inevitable. I consented to hospitalisation because my GP, in her wisdom, led me to believe that it would be tests, tablets and a revolving turnstile – home before bedtime. Even so, as I was helped into the ambulance, I felt like a rabbit caught between headlights. After 18 months of this pandemic, we harbour images of sick people with blue lips and tubes protruding painfully. It wasn’t like that at all and it could have been so much worse had I not been vaccinated, but there was to be no rapid return to the Falconer fold.

It is at times like these, that we realise what has greatest significance in our lives.

At the beginning of the week, I was consumed with money, meals, and plans for our upcoming holiday. By the end, I had completely reassessed my priorities. I set aside the superficial, even the big issues like 3rd world debt and climate change retreated into relative obscurity. What came to the fore were human relationships.

As, one by one, my family members fell foul of COVID we stretched encompassing, collective arms around each other, bridging the miles. Under normal circumstances this wonderfully dysfunctional family chugs along more or less harmoniously, give or take a few skirmishes. Last week, niggles were forgotten as we sought to support each other in any way possible, as desperate to reassure ourselves as to provide comfort. Looking further afield there were meals delivered, a posy of healing herbs from a lady I see too seldom, a barrage of calls, texts and flowers. My friend, and fellow Joy Clubber, Joyce, promptly placed me on a prayer circle.

“I’m not ready to lose her yet,” she told God.

The warmth that descended as human spirit touched human spirit is something I will never forget but, humbling though it was, it was not entirely unexpected.

I have been blessed with many beautiful people in my life. They are my jewels, and they did not disappoint.

What was more surprising was my experience on the COVID ward. The cheerful competence of the medical staff gave me a 3-day respite from my unsuccessful attempts to recover on the sofa. They dispensed care and healing, from the whirlwind nurses, coping with a mountain of work, to the consultant who breezed in each morning with his jokes and wry observations, yet who sat so compassionately on the bed of a young mum as he imparted very unwelcome news. Nor will I forget the nursing auxiliary who shimmied onto his 10-hour night shift and brightened our evening. We had to tell him to stop because it hurt too much when we coughed and laughed at the same time.

The other ladies on the ward were perhaps the most memorable. Seriously ill themselves, they were fantastic. We helped each other when the grossly overstretched staff couldn’t, we made connections, we found friends in common. I discovered that the lady in the next bed had grown up in the same small County Durham town as me and we spent hours walking down memory lane.

Most of all we made each other laugh, as much as we dared, robbing the ward of its potential for doom.

The whole experience has been a voyage of discovery. I have always valued my relationships, now I give them the very highest status and I do not exaggerate when I say that a sizeable lottery win could not have brought more pleasure. 

I have connected and reconnected, I have touched what is essentially both human and divine. That is why I am so adamant about the issue of vaccination. It didn’t prevent transmission, but it certainly mitigated the severity of the COVID virus especially in those for whom complications might have had grave consequences. Most of us who are now beginning on the road to recovery were vaccinated. As the medics pointed out, those who suffer the worst symptoms are not. These are people at the coal face, who deal with COVID on a daily basis. They know the reality and shake their heads in disbelief at those who prefer to take the word of an unsourced meme on social media to science and experience. Now that I am home, I think of that young mum and wonder if she will ever hold her two small children again, and I remember the 23-year-old girl who cried all night until she lacked the energy to continue. They had both refused the vaccine because they did not want to “put poison in their bodies”. We all have relationships – people we’re desperate to keep, and those who would be crushed if they had to learn to live without us. We can be so careless with something so precious and, to an extent, this is avoidable. As my brother remarked,

“How do I get through to these anti-vaxxers? Without that vaccine, I might no longer have a sister “

My experience has brought it home to me just how crucial our relationships are.

Even seemingly much larger issues ultimately boil down to that centrality. It always begins with the human connection. Has there ever been a better time to acknowledge that, and honour the point at which we meet?

Sandra is a member of The Joy Club and has written a previous post for The Joy Blog entitled, ‘Nature’s World: The place I’ve missed most’, which you can read here. If you enjoyed reading Sandra’s writing and feel inspired to try it yourself, members can write for us and join our creative writing workshops to hone their skills. Not yet a member? Sign up to the The Joy Club for free today.here