By Julia Gregory, Local Democracy Reporter
A coronavirus patient who is now recovering said she had messages of support from people as far away as Mongolia.
Alison Cameron, from Kensington and Chelsea, worked in Russia and Belarus in the 1990s and has been heartened by the support she’s been offered since contracting coronavirus.
Mrs Cameron, pictured above, is slowly recovering but has pneumonia, and talked about the challenges that she faced both combating the illness and the financial and social impact.
The fluent Russian speaker, who worked in international relations, said: “I had a Russian charity get in contact. I said “I’m not Russian,” and they said “you have helped our people”. They ended up singing folk songs to me down the phone, which was a delight.
“I’ve even had a message of support from Mongolia. These are the things that keep me going.”
And she was contacted by the Belarus Embassy which wanted to check on her welfare.
She became unwell when she started experiencing breathing difficulties. She already has a weakened immune system and was tested at home by NHS staff wearing body protection suits.
Speaking towards the end of her 14-day self isolation period, the 53-year-old said: “I am feeling much more active and am able to do a bit more. I’ve even done a bit of hoovering.”
Medics told her that there are three categories of virus – no symptoms, those with mild symptoms and those with severe symptoms. “I’m in that category,” she said.
However, she was not hospitalised.
The illness also meant she suffered gastric problems – vomiting and diarrhoea. “I was vomiting constantly. It was absolutely awful. I could not keep water down,” said Ms Cameron.
She has lost three quarters of a stone and added: “I have noticed that my trousers are threatening to fall down. I have done my best to keep nutrition going with multivitamins and keeping hydrated.”
As she is now very slowly on the mend, she reflected: “It’s been a really rich learning experience. But it’s really not pleasant.
“People think it’s doing nothing, doing water colours and reading novels, and it’s not quite like that.
“It was an effort for me to even sit up straight, so for me to do pottering about now is good.”
She felt too ill to cook, and the cost of ordering in meals has taken its toll.
“All these deliveries have wiped me out. When it was my choice I could go out and choose and buy cheaper things. When places charge for deliveries it really mounts up. I did not feel well enough to cook and it’s really wiped out my savings.”
Money worries left her feeling very low. She added: “For the first time I was actually feeling suicidal as well and felt ‘I can’t deal with it’. But my cat came and gave me ‘a boot’. Psychologically it’s been quite difficult.”
She had been saving to fund a trip to the Ukraine and to see family in Canada and those funds have now gone.
However people have donated money to help her cope but there has been a delay in her being able to get access to it.
And she suggested companies need to think about their delivery policies, such as bringing regular medications to patients’ homes rather than asking them to send a representative.
She has been self isolating at her flat in the south of the borough and been in contact with the NHS by calling NHS 111.
She said: “This is unprecedented. They are overstretched under normal circumstances. How are they coping with this?”
Her experiences living in Russia at the times of shortages helped her get through.
She said: “I am good at coping with situations, they ran out of milk back in the day in Leningrad and we had no hot water sometimes. I am quite resilient.”
And music has helped. She added: “I’m listening to Chopin at the moment and I find it really calming. I took the advice of the Belarus Embassy not to watch too much news. I’ve been watching box sets of the police drama Death in Paradise instead.”