Hey guys, it's been a might little while. Where I had full expectations about writing up about my Bali trip, instead I'm looking at the darkness that has been the outbreak of the Corona virus.
I think like everyone else, four weeks ago, I didn't take it too seriously. It was over the news, but it was just something that would hopefully go away. I laughed to my workmates that it was okay, I'd try not to bring it back with me. I don't want to say I foreshadowed myself in saying that - but man. I don't know if I would have gone if I knew what we all do now.
| Before I started this journey - my flight photo to Bali |
I'll start by saying some of this post is may no longer be relevant to what we know now,
but was relevant at the time of when it was happening.
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It was the wording the echoed us around most of the Bali. From our amazing drivers, to the people cooking us food, and the tour guides from the places we visited. If there was one place that we felt like we could be safe - we figured it would be there. At the time we left, there had been zero recorded cases, which for an upcoming virus was pretty impressive.
On our second night however, our GoJek driver was sick. Like, really sick. Although he wore a mask, our little cotton wool bubble was promptly popped - and we started noticing just how sick people were around us. Now, I'm not saying they had the Corona virus. They probably didn't - but it was naive of people to say there was no virus going around because low and behold, my partner came down sick a few days after that. We waited out 24 hours, just in case it was Bali belly - but we ended up cancelling one of our day plans to accommodate a call from the doctor.
The doctor was lovely, and said it was good that we called - as obviously he was aware of the circumstances, but assured that (we) would be both okay - and to call him back if there was any changes.
I least tried to have a good holiday. Thanks Starbucks ♥
The last few days were a struggle. We couldn't find masks anywhere, (and we honestly went to twenty different locations, just in case there was something, somewhere.) and we were running dangerously low on hand sanitizer. I'd started to come down sick as well -and combined with the heat, it wasn't a great mix.
I spent the last 24 hours of our stay in a panic. Would we be allowed back in Australia? Would they stop us at the airport? What would happen if they did a temperature check and I showed up above normal? I tried to google information about what happens if we were worried about having caught something over there - and the only information I was given back was "Get back to Australia. Hospitals overseas are not going to be sufficient."
I want to make it clear that I did not want to travel
And this actually becomes a recurring theme in this post. I wanted to make sure that we were okay to go, but as by this stage the virus had been upgraded to a full pandemic, our insurance no longer covered any hospital expenses, we felt there was no further options available to us.
So, finally equipped with a mask, (Thanks airport) we returned back to Australia as planned.
Pretty sure I was wearing this back to front for a good hour. #StoryOfMyLife
Returning home during a pandemic
When we arrived back, we had a delay in our disembarkment. The plane sat on the tarmac about twenty minutes whilst a bio security officer ran in, full hazmat suit a go go, and a voice over to advise that he was on board to test one of our fellow passengers. There was a lot of backlash on the plane. One particular passenger became extremely snippy towards the flight attendant that was trying to keep everyone calm - demanding to know why we weren't allowed to leave, and then why should we have been exposed to that person at all in the first place. Her complaints were echoed throughout the cabin, and the glares from tired travelers continued to shoot daggers at the back on the plane.
Eventually, they were deemed as low risk, and we were allowed to disembark. Now, the Australian government website stated that for ALL passengers displaying concerning symptoms on a plane, airline staff are to identify and put their names forward. I can guarantee you that there was more than one person on that flight that had symptoms. Even when we were sitting there, numerous people were still coughing around us.
When we finally got into the terminal, they had advised us to tell a bio security officer if we were feeling unwell. The problem was, that we'd all just seen the animosity towards the one sick traveler that had been pulled out. And there was no one in a hazmat suit standing around going "Hey! Come talk to me!" - instead they were relying on people to approach - in front of every person of that had just got off that plane - someone who might not be the right person.
There was plenty of opportunities to avoid this. When doing the self service passport check in, they gave a bunch of security questions whether we'd been to China, Iran, Italy etc - but unlike when we checked in to Bali, there was no "Hey, are you actually sick?" questions. Many places in Bali also were doing temperature checks; even this for a few minutes of inconvenience would have been preferable.
Error: Clarification Required
Instead, we got through customs, got in a taxi and went straight into self isolation. For most of that Saturday I was asleep. I told my partner when I woke up later that night that we should really go to the hospital, as we both knew we were unwell, but we waited until the Sunday to try and get some clarification on where to go.
(Fatigue, sickness, and jet lag = not a great mix )
I spent over the course of five hours on the phone, and internet, to find answers on what to do next. I ended up staying on hold to the Direct Health hotline for an hour. When we finally got through, I advised our symptoms, and the lady said to head to the doctors or ER within 24 hours.
Now I'd already googled the doctors, the only one that at that time we could get into was an after hours, and their website strongly advised they were not capable to handle potential cases, but they had a drive by service where you stay in your car, they test you in the car, and then you drive home.
When I advised that we didn't actually have a way of access a private vehicle as I'm not from Darwin, and the only vehicle we had was a motorbike - she was extremely blunt in saying we should not be getting into any public vehicle. So we sat in a dilemma. Go risk an Uber driver to take us to the doctors or the ER, or borrow a car the next day after hours (which was the eventual option.)
Now, Darwin has a dedicated corona virus testing clinic. Happy days and awesome. However. As of searching yesterday - there is NO information about their open times. (Admittedly, there is a separate number for them. But I'd specifically asked the hotline if I needed to call ahead for the booking and was told no, just to turn up to the ER) This, on a side note, is part of the problem I have found. Half the websites you visit tell you to call one number, another half tell you to call a different one. Neither of the hotlines are apparently talking to one another.
The "Corona virus" hotline very specifically tells you "This is for general information only, and this is the same information that is available on the Australian Government Website." - aka, they're not going to tell you anything that you don't already know if you've read the website. In re-doing a search an article from the ABC (at least for Darwin) was posted a few hours back advising the hotline had been over run and now refers those in Darwin to call straight through to the second number I'd queried. Anyway.
At least my mask was on the right way this time. #HospitalVisit
I'm "obviously" contagious
We finally get to the Tuesday, much later that I'd anticipated, but after being told off about the ride share option, we waited until we could access a car, and apparently 10pm on a Tuesday night was the earliest we could do it.
Just as we witnessed on the plane, the stigma is massive. Even with a near dead empty ER room, the sole other person in the waiting room was pretty quick to rush a face mask on.
We do the basic "Hey, I came back from Bali, got the symptoms, can we please get a test thanks." - luckily we were approved, I'm hearing so many stories of people not being looked at, so I'll take that positive. We were then indicated to go into the quarantine area. Outside. Yeah. Outside.
I don't know about anyone else, but if you're sick - the WORST possible scenario is to go sit outside in the warm. It's an isolated and "well ventilated" area which I guess is what they were aiming for but even so. Thank goodness we didn't come earlier on otherwise I would've walked straight back out again.
The doctor came out and in a very passive aggressive tone snapped, asking wtf we were doing at the ER at 11pm at night. Fair question. I replied back saying we'd called the hotline and they said to come here. She's then pointed out there's a dedicated clinic, but they're open from 9-5. I say great, but that's not on your website, and not the information we'd received.
I didn't want to pick a battle that neither of us were going to win so we got our nose and throat swabs done (read: brain swabs. Ow.) The swabs aren't nice. It's not like a simple brush of the cheek with a cotton tip - they basically jam it down your throat to get a sample, and then proceed to then swab both nostrils - and the tip goes up as far as one could possibly get it up there. It hurts, and I'm not ashamed to say that I was nearly in tears over it. (Apparently that's pretty normal).
After that, we were off on our merry way again. (Again, in fairness, the doctor was just doing her job and I can understand why she was being a little bit angsty about us just rocking up. And whilst Kyle had overheard her snapping to the other doctors in the triage, she was apart from the above pretty nice to us. )
Oh. But yes, the judgement piece again. We walked out of the ER, face masks on as you should, and these two people in front of us literally SPRINTED TO THEIR CAR. I just couldn't believe what I was seeing?
We were very fortunate that we got our test results back the next day - both of us clear. I could have kissed the lady from the CDC (You're a babe, Noella. Thanks!) - but y'know. Social distancing rules and a phone kinda prevented that. On a plus - it meant I could finally see sunlight for the first time in five days.
SUNLIGHT AT LAST!
The Food Issue
Here's the other thing that no one was talking about. WE HAD ONLY JUST COME BACK FROM OVERSEAS, WHICH MEANT THERE WAS NO PREPARATION AVAILABLE FOR THIS.
Originally, I was like, that's fine - we'll just order stuff from the supermarket - HA. No. That didn't happen - Coles & Woolworths (our big supermarkets if you're reading outside of Australia) shut down ALL deliveries. We had Uber Eats as an option- but at $50 a pop - and I was very quickly running out of money, this option was getting old, real quick.
Again, the advice from the government is "You may need more groceries when you are quarantine at home. If the people you live with are unable to get groceries, or if you live alone, friends or family living outside of your household can deliver groceries to your home. They should leave the groceries at your door."
So there's a number of issues here.
1. Very similar to our position, we didn't have enough time to be able to go get supplies for lock down - and in my case, I wasn't a resident of the state I was in. Heck, I had no family, and no friends there. So pray tell, how one is supposed to ask for assistance when you have no one?
2. With the amount of panic buying from so many different people, and then the restrictions in place, there simply would not have been enough food available if you're asking someone to do TWO lots of shops, for two families.
When finally cleared from the virus - came into the issue of finding food that wasn't junk food.
Also ran out of masks again.
Time to come home?
I had planned to stay in Darwin until what would have been today; a bit over a week and a half from when we returned. I figured if I stayed indoors, kept up my vitamins and water - I'd be feeling better.
When the CDC lady called me and told me I didn't have the virus, not only did I nearly cry, I had a few questions to ask - particularly about travel. I told her that I didn't live in Darwin, and I needed to return back to Tassie at some point soon. She agreed that I shouldn't be travelling with a compromised immune system. Whilst I was in the clear for Corona, I wasn't in the clear for anything else, and I should stay put.
Two days later, at five am, I was online, about to book in my flight. I haven't been sleeping right since we got back to Australia, so the time wasn't unusual, but I just had a bit of a weird feeling. I joked to my partner "Ha, I'll just leave it to the morning. Who knows what could happen in eight hours?"
EIGHT HOURS LATER
On that Thursday, Tasmania decreed it would be the first state in Australia to implement the toughest border rules, and as of midnight Friday - every new person to come into Tasmania would be subjected to go into self isolation for (another) fourteen days.
Needless to say - I was devastated, and panicked. I'd already delayed my return to work by four days - and had already felt like I was pushing it by pressing it out a week with the cold. Let alone going back and then having to explain that I was going to be out for another two weeks.
I booked my plane tickets instead for later that night - $100 more than I was going to be paying - but at least I was lucky. Some of my friends internationally were up for thousands to get their flight home. Others are still struggling to even get onto a plane.
Tired, exhausted, sick - and freaking out that I was being COUGHED ON.
For FOUR HOURS.
I was appalled by what I saw through the airports on my return journey. Sitting behind me, there was a lady, obviously sick, coughing her head off ON ME for four hours. I say that cautiously as I'm acutely aware that we've got people out there with respiratory issues, and other conditions that on the surface levels are not what they seem - but with a cough, sniffles, and a croaky throat - if nothing else, she should have been wearing a mask.
I've been angry at the lady for the past week, thinking how dare she be on that plane with no mask. The thing is though, I don't know if she tried to look for one. Maybe she did. Maybe she was just like me in Bali, searching desperately to no avail. Who knows? Thinking back, I still believe my frustration was valid - however I think more could have been done from the government and airlines.
For someone already with a compromised immune system - I had the biggest panic attack when I reached Melbourne. There was no temperature checking, no available masks for purchase; the chemist was completely out of santizer. For such a high risk area for the virus, there was literally nothing in place.
Fast forward to my entry into Tasmania - the incoming passenger card apparently was not applicable for me, as I returned home on the 14th, and they were only concerned with travelers after the 16th. Was I not a risk? Did they not care? It was amazing to see how little expectations they had upon travelers.
At the end of the day
I could have had things worse. My sister at the moment is still overseas, trying to get back to Australia. I'm listening into a phone call at the moment with my Mum and her, as her flight again has been cancelled. I've found this stressful, and I honestly am not going to take away from the fact that I'm pretty sure I have sprouted white hairs. I'm still sick, and not sure if and when I'm going to get better - and there's no guarantee that I didn't pick up the virus again from the airport. I'm too nervous and tired to try and look into it more.
The thing that people don't tell you about being part of the population that has had the potential of having been exposed is the amount of guilt you feel. On top of everything else, my stress and sickness wasn't helped with the overwhelming thought of, "Oh my goodness. If I'm sick - how many other people have I encountered that now may have this?" Although I'm clear from the last results, I've traveled again since (though domestic, not international). I'm still sick. I haven't recovered from whatever I had when I landed. Every cough, every scratch in my throat even now - I'm straight back into thinking that I'm going to have to go back through it again, because who knows? You don't want to feel like a burden, and people when they find out you've been overseas - you're treated like the biggest outcast. It can be very isolating.
My world has changed. I left Tasmania going for what should have been one of the most perfect birthday trips ever and expecting things to be nearly the same as to where I left. Instead I came back to having no hours available at my work. Limited food on the shelves. Misinformation in the media. General panic and human stupidity. I've seen lots of light things coming out of it too, don't get me wrong. There's been some amazing initiatives being set up - and whilst I think things could be handled better, even now, most people are trying their best.
If you need to travel to get home, then try to do the responsible thing and make sure you're protecting yourself from others, and keep to your social distancing as much as you can. If you're required to self-quarantine, then don't be a hero and go out. From personal experience as we've discovered, I understand how tough it is. I do. There's nothing I'd like better than to go off to the movies, or go catch up with a friend for a coffee, but the thing is I don't want to leave the house. I don't want to help give this thing any more reason to spread more than it has now.
I went absolutely crazy after five days being stuck in the same room, same walls, but if we're wanting to beat this shit of a thing - don't be a dick. Stay the fuck inside.