Updated: May 24, 2020
In the 50 years that our city of Milton Keynes has been around- we haven't faced a crisis like the Covid era before, I, like each and everyone of you have been affected by it in one way or another.
As many of us have been out in the streets week after week on a Thursday at 8pm clapping and cheering our carers and key workers, I thought I would go and meet with one in person to discuss what life is like working during this crisis, and how Milton Keynes and the country have adapted the environment in which they work.
When looking for a subject to focus this article on, I asked for recommendations on my social media for anyone who has been specifically inspirational during these hard times and I had two separate people both nominate Coral Flux, so last week I went to meet with Coral myself- at a safe distance.
This is Coral, she is a 32 year old team leader support worker who has been working for The Fremantle Trust for the last two and a half years and has lived in Newport Pagnell in Milton Keynes her whole life.
The Fremantle Trust is a registered charity and not for profit organisation providing care and support services for older people and adults with learning disabilities.
Coral says that although she has only been in the job a couple of years, she knows she has found what she should be doing in her life, and wakes up every morning looking forward to going to work.
For me personally, life in the new social distancing world is the new norm, I keep my distance from everyone except my family with whom I live. But as Coral said, for her and so many other carers, "it's not possible to social distance all the time, especially with those (she is) caring for."
On an average day she will go to someone's home who has learning or health disabilities and help them to clean, cook, and assist them with everyday life. Work like this can't continue with social distancing, and Coral and all other staff members still working on a daily basis are putting themselves at risk, for the good of others.
Although because of her working environment she states that when in shops and out and about she must remind herself to keep a good 2 metre distance from others, as for her, it is not the all day, everyday norm.
We spoke about PPE and what has been issued to her employers, and she said that for a while, all that was sent was a box of around 300 masks and gloves- for 156 staff members. "This was two masks per staff member, and as some of the people we care for are in group homes, if one of those people were self isolating in their room, a new mask, apron and set of gloves would be needed every time someone entered their room, which sometimes can be up to 20-30 times a day."
Maths is certainly not my strong suit, but even I can see that the numbers of issued PPE just does not add up. Coral admitted that with the lack of PPE being sent, after a while no one even bothered. She said that at the beginning she was washing her hands so often that between her fingers were raw and bleeding.
Coral was nominated on my social media by two people whose shopping she has been doing whilst they were self isolating, and in her spare time in one week she did her own and 6 other family and friends weekly shopping.
In her words "I honestly feel I'm doing everything I can, I have done as much as I can, plus extra, because I can and because I want to."
It's people like Coral that have helped to keep our city of Milton Keynes going during this crisis, and she is one of the few people that day in and day out have gone to work, and even on her days off have helped others, at the risk of her own health.
Before working as a support carer, Coral worked with young offenders between the ages of 12 and 18 in Milton Keynes at the prison. She openly admitted that this job was not for her, and she didn't enjoy it. But this job led to working for Fremantle and she said that "I love my job, I have found what I am supposed to be doing, and I love doing it."
Another concern for Coral and I'm sure many other carers, is the change in lifestyle for those they support. Many of whom would suffer with anxiety during everyday life, and as Coral states "we are now having to tell them the opposite of what we usually try to encourage, normally part of our job is getting people out and about mixing with others, socialising, and doing jobs outside of the house. Now we are having to say, don't go out, wash your hands, don't touch anyone. And although everyone has coped amazingly, I think it's only after all of this is over and we say you can go out again that we will see how much it has affected their mental health."
One of the people that the Fremantle trust cares for in Milton Keynes has unfortunately died from the virus, and everyone else living in the same house had symptoms, but it was because of the carers who worked in that house everyday, and even slept over for the two weeks that they were infected, that the number has stayed as just one, and luckily all the others have now recovered.
Coral has not as of yet supported anyone with Covid, or likely symptoms, but she says that "if it happens I will cross that bridge when I get there, although I can't tell you exactly how I will feel until I am in that situation, I think that as long as I have the correct PPE, I'm going to feel alright about it".
For so many of us, even going out and about to the supermarket can seem scary and anxiety ridden, but for Coral and so many other front line workers in Milton Keynes, being close to others is the norm. It is because of these people that so many of the most vulnerable of our city are still with us, and will be coming out of this on the other side, healthy and happy.
These last few months have been tough for everyone in the support system, but a couple of things that Coral and her colleagues have been doing to lift the spirits of the people they care for is arranging socially distancing karaoke parties in the street and having a coffee van pull up outside their home. One by one, they can come out to order a cake and a coffee. She said that "it may only be 10 minutes it takes them to get the coffee and go back up to their home, but those ten minutes in a day of lockdown can mean a lot to people".
I have probably said it one too many times in this article, but what I find most admirable about Coral and the job that she and so many others do on the front line is the selflessness of it.
I know in myself that I couldn't do it with the level of joy and ease that she and so many others do.
As Corals T-shirt and so many others say, we are "All In This Together", whether that be all of us in this wonderful city of ours, or at this very moment, all of us in the world.
We all have a part to play in keeping us all physically and mentally healthy, and it is because of people like Coral, that so many of us are going to get out of this in one piece, and that the most vulnerable of us all shall be safe once again.
Thanks for reading and stay safe,