In my early twenties, I was fit, healthy and generally felt pretty invincible… Until I literally died.
(Yes, I’m one of the few people under 40 who is still using “literally” in the correct context).
Obviously, I was resuscitated, which means I have an opportunity to tell this story and hopefully let it serve as a warning to others that youth is not a vaccine against Coronavirus.
I was incredibly frustrated by the scenes at Bondi beach recently, when hundreds of Australians prioritised selfies in the sun over public safety by ignoring the government’s social distancing rules.
But it’s not just irresponsible swimmers and sunbakers at Bondi who need a reality check.
My husband and I had to go out for medication over the weekend. Driving around areas near us, I was appalled to see beaches, parks and restaurants heaving with groups of people, swarming around each other like germs in a petri dish.
I’ve seen similar scenes repeated around different parts of the world. Masses of minions ignoring the warnings and piling into confined spaces, such as the London Tube.
Above: Bondi beach recently. At a time when we’re all supposed to be self-isolating.
It’s not often I agree with a conservative grey-haired man in an ill-fitting suit, especially if he’s a politician. But the other night I nodded furiously during coverage of the press conference as Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Australia’s chief medical officer, Brendan Murphy, delivered stern warnings.
“I’m particularly talking to young people who may think they’re immune to the effects of this virus,” Mr Murphy said.
Please know that my anger and disbelief at selfish socialisers doesn’t discriminate by age and the same messages are appropriate to anyone of any age who does not need to be in public right now.
Personally, I think both men did a decent job at remaining calm. If it had been me delivering that message, I assure you there would have been multiple profanities hurled down the barrel of the camera.
So why am I so steadfast in my view that being young and healthy does not make you invincible?
Because I have lived through a life-threatening medical emergency that turned my young life and my family’s life upside-down in an instant – forever.
Prior to that I was symptom-free, going about my every day and generally living what I thought was my best life.
Everything was sweet but it became really sour really quickly when an invisible but vicious little infection – Streptococcus-A – really messed things up.
To this day, nobody knows how I contracted it but in the words of one medical professional, it was, “just bloody bad luck”.
Above: My ilness didn’t discriminate and neither does COVID.
I don’t remember my first few months in hospital – partly because I was in a coma for some of it. But I clearly remember being in hospital for over a year, the first time.
My leg, toes and fingertips all had to be amputated and I’ve since returned to hospital many times for more surgery. Including a total hip replacement and plenty more – all before my 30th birthday.
A permanent brain injury meant I lost my eyesight, my job, my friends, my licence and lots more.
So did I think this would ever happen to me? No way.
I was naive enough to feel invincible and the fact that I was a fit and healthy young person gave me a false sense of security.
One moment I was following the standard ‘best practice’ health advice – Exercising weekly, eating lots of vegetables and generally looking after myself. I didn’t take drugs and wasn’t a big drinker.
The next moment, my family got a phone call to say that they needed to come interstate immediately because I wasn’t expected to survive the night in ICU.
My illness and COVID-19 are very different beasts and can’t really be compared. But what they do have in common is that both are invisible evils and they’re spread in similar ways that can be slowed or halted if everyone who can stay at home, does just that.
Please know that I realise it’s not that easy for everyone and my own husband is considered an ‘essential worker’.
I personally understand (and want you to understand) that life can change when you least expect it in the worst imaginable way. Even for “fit and healthy young people”.
Just ask the residents at Youngcare (an organisation supporting and accommodating young people with high-care needs. I’ve had the privilege of meeting many other young people who also thought that youth made them invincible to illness.
Please remember that just because you can’t see or feel COVID-19, does not mean it doesn’t exist.
Symptom-free does not mean COVID-free.
Finally, if Morrison and Murphy couldn’t say it last night, I will.
Don’t be a dick. Unless your circumstances require you to be out, take some goddamn personal responsibility and stay the fuck away from everyone!