as told by five AMAT residents
Lauren is in her twenties, she has been an AMAT resident for just over a year and shares a house with five other residents.
Initially Lauren wasn’t paying much attention to coronavirus, but when her mother received an NHS letter telling her to shield because of underlying conditions, Lauren had a funny feeling that lockdown might be on its way.
When lockdown eventually came, it didn’t change much for Lauren as she was still able to go out and do her daily routine as much as possible. On a typical lockdown day, Lauren would get up, enjoy a coffee and a cigarette, and put her PlayStation on for a couple of hours before driving to her friend’s house to walk her dog. Lauren has had her dog, Rollo, since he was a puppy. But as she is unable to keep Rollo at her own house, Rollo stays with her friend and Lauren pops over to walk him twice a day.
On some days Lauren might go shopping and then cook at her friend’s house, before returning to her room to unwind; watch a film or Netflix via her PlayStation. Since the beginning of lockdown Lauren started watching the six o’clock news on BBC to keep up with the latest information and the daily death rate from COVID-19.
While her daily routine continued much as normal, lockdown did change one thing dramatically; Lauren has been waiting for a hip replacement since autumn last year. It was scheduled for March, just a few days before lockdown, but was postponed as part of the NHS cancellation of all non-coronavirus related treatments and operations. Although the hospital has been in touch to say that they hope to get her in as soon as possible, Lauren is still waiting for a new date. Given that it will take six weeks to recover, followed by another four weeks on crutches Lauren is obviously keen for it to happen as soon as possible.
Because of her hip problems Lauren was given a car, as driving makes her hip less painful. Driving during lockdown was a pleasant experience for Lauren;
‘The roads were so peaceful, it was odd, it was strange to drive during early lockdown because the roads were so quiet. It’s usually so busy in Chatham, but it was like a ghost town… where is everyone?’
The roads might have been quiet, but the same cannot be said for Lauren’s house. Prior to lockdown she got on well with her housemates, but with everyone at home the house was busier and noisier than normal.
‘I’ve been doing a lot of biting my tongue’.
Because of lockdown AMAT staff were unable to do their usual house checks and the cleaners were not allowed in either. Lauren felt quite frustrated as she ended up doing most of the cleaning of their communal kitchen and bathroom, and also had to put up with late night drinking and noise.
‘To be honest I am trying to stay out of the way as much as possible, because what can you do?’
About a week into lockdown early one morning, the house was evacuated due to a gas leak. Lauren was woken at 4.30AM by the emergency services who told her to dress warmly and evacuate the house. About three or four other AMAT houses on Lauren’s road were also evacuated that morning and residents spent the next couple of hours dreaming about hot coffee and their beds, while waiting on the curb for the gas pipe to be fixed.
Lauren’s dad lives in the Midlands with his new wife and Lauren’s six younger siblings. On most days during lockdown Lauren video-called them to help her dad out, especially with her youngest sister who could be quite a handful. With the schools shut they were all at home, getting bored and arguing a lot, so Lauren tried to keep them all calm and stop winding each other up. Not the easiest job over a video call! It was sometimes hard to communicate at a distance, but Lauren really liked talking to her family every day. Before lockdown they hardly kept in touch; but Lauren has promised her youngest sister to come up once all this is over to celebrate her birthday belatedly.
Lauren’s teenage brother is disabled and has carers coming every day. His carers were meant to wear full PPE (personal protective equipment), but because they hadn’t been supplied with any, they couldn’t. But one day, about 5 or 6 weeks into lockdown, Lauren’s dad rang her in amazement to say a whole box of PPE, with face masks, aprons and gloves had been left on his doorstep. This was a complete surprise to everyone because such a long time had passed, but it meant since then the carers can put on their PPE before coming into the house.
When lockdown measures began to ease, Lauren noticed how much more traffic there was again and that everyone was suddenly out and about enjoying the weather. ‘
I drove down to the beach, thinking it might be quiet, but no, there was literally nowhere to park. I have never seen it so busy. I was thinking ‘are we in the middle of the school holiday? Are we in lockdown? Why is everyone here?’ I just took one look at it and turned my car around and came back home. I am not being a part of that’.
Lauren worries that we came out of lockdown too early and that we might just end up in lockdown again, but looking to the future she just wants her hip operation done so that she can recover and see her family again.
We are grateful to the AMAT residents who agreed to participate and to share their experiences of lockdown. All names and identifying details have been changed to protect their privacy.
Our thanks also go to Dr Anna Ludvigsen who listened to residents’ stories and complied them for this project.