A series of interviews with villagers in lockdown by Frances Currey
2: Jill Slicher
Jill Slicher has lived with her partner, his aunt and their two children in the village for nine years.
She works as a senior speech and language therapist, helping people communicate when it may not come naturally. It may be the case that some patients need Jill's help after an injury or illness. She works alongside other professionals to assess a situation and help people to live as comfortably as possible.
Unfortunately, Jill contracted Coronavirus back in March. I asked her how this affected and is still affecting her day-to-day life. She described how the initial symptoms were quite mild, however, a week into her infection she had a relapse and became breathless. Jill had pains behind her sternum, pains which still linger today. Most significantly she experienced extreme fatigue and was forced to spend the majority of her day sitting or lying down.
She explained how the virus completely knocked her off her feet. The activities she used to enjoy, like conquering a climbing wall once a week and spending time with her kids have been put on hold.
However, for her, the virus hasn’t been all bad. She has spent a lot of time in the garden, watching spring unfold and the birds feeding on her bird table. The lovely weather has made these difficult past few weeks more bearable.
I then went on to ask her how the Coronavirus epidemic had affected her work and her patients.
She returned to work two weeks ago but is only able to do about a third of what she used to. She struggles to keep up with the needs of her patients. The NHS has been forced to take some people out of their homes and into respite care. Some are managing very well and have rather enjoyed staying in one place for a change.
Part of her job is taking the information that we are given from the government and wording it in a way her patients can understand.
Jill works with a community team who, at the moment, are only able to carry out face-to-face visits with people they are most concerned about. This means they cannot see the vast majority of their patients. The team has now resorted to weekly support, over the ‘phone, to their patients. They also talk to family members which isn’t always as effective as personal contact. The pressure has definitely increased on the families and the professional carers.
These times are particularly uncertain for Jill and her fellow workers in the NHS. They hope that there will be big changes after Coronavirus and more help for workers and the people they treat.
I then went on to ask Jill about the support she received during her illness. Jill’s partner took on many of the household chores as well as the difficult task of home-schooling their children.
She also received many ‘phone calls from her extended family in Scotland and her friends and colleagues. In fact, Jill spent so much time on the ‘phone, her children complained.
Having worked with vulnerable and isolated communities all her life, Jill feels fortunate to live in a small but supportive and connected village. She likes the fact that she is able to ask neighbours to go to the shop for her. This was especially helpful when her partner and one of their children developed COVID-19. Many people offered help and made sure they had everything they needed.
Walking in and around Ilmington has been a great comfort for Jill knowing that she won’t come into contact with others. Living in such a quiet village makes it easy to forget the hustle and bustle of the outside world. On a recent trip to the supermarket Jill was surprised how hectic things were, in contrast. Moving from inner-city Glasgow to Ilmington made Jill realise the many differences there are between these two places. People in Glasgow have a very different outlook on life to those in rural Warwickshire. Jill thinks that the long term effects will vary between the different areas of our country.
Finally, we discussed the effects lockdown has had and whether there will be any lasting impact on our society.
Although she appreciates the weekly applause and general support for our health service Jill does wonder how long this gratitude will continue after lockdown.
Jill makes a powerful point; we must remember those who have worked tirelessly throughout this pandemic. While putting their health in danger, most are still underpaid and underappreciated.
The NHS have been keeping our country together during this extraordinary time. Jill believes that we must not forget this as we slowly return to normal life.
It was fascinating and humbling to talk to someone who has not only had this awful virus but has been on the front line of care. I would like to thank Jill Slicher very much.
There will be another interview in two weeks.
Until then, stay safe and enjoy the sunshine.