Why we’re scared as the ‘let it rip’ tide of COVID hits NSW, Australia

Here’s why we are so scared for Mac and why we are desperate not to be caught in the ‘let it rip’ tide of COVID that’s hit NSW and Australia.

Thanks to vaccination, we are now less worried about the disease than we are about the potential treatment and/or lack of it he would receive in an overwhelmed hospital and health system as a very young adult with severe disability. Mac, Gina, and I are triple-vaccinated and we have done everything possible to follow the health guidance of the likes of Dr Kerry Chant for two years. We have been significantly isolating for the entire time. Even when I returned to face-to-face teaching for a brief time at the start of last year, we did it without fully embracing the ‘return to normal’ we were encouraged to do. As those who know Mac know, he does not talk or walk and he does not eat, drink, roll or do anything without us. He is healthy but is totally dependent on others.

If Mac was to catch COVID, in all likelihood, we would also have the virus. He would have either caught it from us and/or someone we exposed him to.

Now let’s consider this scenario – we, as a family, all have COVID – Gina is sick but resting in bed, I’m OK and managing minor symptoms, and Mac has developed severe symptoms. Under the circumstances we had hoped we would be at two years in the pandemic, we would take Mac to hospital. The system would be able to look after him, with our assistance, because we would have ‘flattened the curve’ and there would be little risk of him being overlooked or deprioritised. But, we are not in those circumstances. We now have a health system that is buckling, if not breaking. While the prime minister, premier, and health ministers say the system will hold up, sadly, that hopeful declaration is not for people like Mac. He is 18 but the size of a small 10-year-old. He is an adult – that means an adult ward and adult care. He has severe cerebral palsy and can only lie on his side unsupported. He, physically, cannot lie on his stomach. We know him and his every look, sound, and emotion, but no one else does. We would be able to help, if allowed, but that would be unlikely if we also have COVID, and Mac is being treated as every other adult in the hospital. On top of that, an overwhelmed hospital and health care system would not be able to meet the 24/7 demands of Mac’s usual care, let alone the attention, child-size equipment, and staff needed for a COVID patient, potentially in intensive care. He would be lost.

This is scary, but we don’t pretend to deserve anything not afforded others during the pandemic. Sadly, however, we have lived through what can go wrong in a health system under usual circumstances let alone one that’s under the pressure of a pandemic and a tidal wave of cases. This is the worst case scenario for Mac and the thousands of people with disability like him but within a matter of weeks it’s become significantly less unlikely.

Look after yourselves – get vaccinated, be sensible. Our thoughts are with our family and friends on the medical frontline, including two nieces in the nursing army. We are also eternally grateful to those in the essential services who have enabled us to isolate and shield. We know you are being told to return to work even if positive. We hope you know how much you are appreciated.

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