“And now I am scared”: Delay and Avoidance in Uncertain Times

Author: Markéta Pešoutová, OUSHI

Julie K. is a cheerful 87-year-old lady living in a city in the Czech Republic. She has been a widower for the past seven years. She explains that her marriage to Andrej, which lasted for almost 62 years, was underpinned by mutual love and respect. In the last two years of her husband’s life, she took great care of him since he was unable to walk. Andrej was initially assisted by a manual wheelchair which he later had to upgrade to an electric version. During the last six months Julie remembers waking up every two hours during the night to help her husband. Even though, this period was a challenging time with lack of sleep and great amount of stress, she wouldn’t change a thing.

Currently, Julie lives alone in a small flat. She is happy living alone, having her own rhythm, space and time to enjoy her hobbies. She loves to read, call her friends and family or watch TV shows. She reflects that her family is really caring, taking her to doctor´s appointments, shopping or for trips into the countryside.

As much as Julie is enjoying her retirement, her body acts otherwise. “My body is breaking” she says quietly. During the last ten years she has been through five surgeries. Her varicose veins needed to be fixed twice, her knee was replaced, she required an operation on her gallbladder as well as a hysterectomy. Most recently, her doctors found a melanoma in her shoulder. Removal surgery went well, however the prognosis remains unclear and more tests need to be done. Moreover, her left hand is numb, lacking strength to open the front door of the house. She always needs assistance as she is also unable to walk without support. When Julie goes out, she uses two crutches. Opening the heavy front door is an impossible task for her.

Julie needs to see at least four doctors every three months in order to monitor her chronic health problems. She visits an ophthalmologist to get injections to her left eye to prevent blindness. Moreover, as her heart is not in a good condition, she is seeing an internist. Due to the melanoma, she has appointments with a dermatologist. Finally, she also receives help from a neurologist because her back-pain problems also impact her legs.

Complicating these intense and multiple health concerns, are the added stresses and difficulties brought to her life by the Covid-19 Pandemic. In March 2020, one of Julie’s daughters took her to a cottage in the middle of nowhere. The house was surrounded by forest and Julie spent four peaceful months with her family. She especially enjoyed spending time with her two-year-old great-grand-daughter. During this time Julie felt secure, loved and protected. “It was a blessing” she adds.

In September the family needed to return to their daily lives and so did Julie. At the time of writing, Julie has to see her doctors as she skipped her regular check-ups during spring due to the self-isolation of her family. Faced with a second coronavirus wave and numbers of community transmitted cases, the future looks very uncertain.

“And now, I am scared. I am afraid to go visit the doctors. I am wearing a mask, I keep social distancing, I use disinfection. But that´s all I can do. However, before I go to the doctor, I feel sick. Well, I am scared, that´s all I can say.”

Release Date

December 2020

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