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Monday, November 29, 2021

How the pandemic changed our children’s lives – for better or for worse

‘Before she was ill, Mum cycled 13 miles a day on her commute. Now she uses a wheelchair’

One morning, in mid-March 2020, we’d put our school uniforms on when Mum came downstairs saying she felt a bit unwell and we should stay at home, just in case it was Covid. 

We were finishing primary school that year and since all schools shut the next week, we never got to do the fun things that were planned – the residential trip, disco, play… Actually, because my twin and I left before anyone knew lockdown was coming, we didn’t even get to say goodbye to everyone.

My brothers and I caught Covid too, shortly after Mum. I had joint pain, terrible sickness, diarrhoea and no energy for weeks. It was awful, but we weren’t as ill as Mum. She went to A&E five times. The first time she went I said, ‘Bye! Don’t die!’ I was joking, but I know now that she really thought she might.

For about three months, Mum could barely get out of bed. She looked white as a sheet. We couldn’t see our dad for ages because our grandma lived with him and is very vulnerable. Instead, my brothers and I learnt to look after ourselves and Mum. My older brother became head chef, I was sous-chef. I got pretty good at smoked-salmon pasta. I did laundry and lawn mowing and Mum’s friends did our shopping.

Mum’s usually strict about screens, but when she realised she was getting really ill, we brought the gadgets back from my dad’s house. We could game whenever we wanted to, and help ourselves to snacks. We didn’t ask Mum, she was too weak. Eventually we had to put a mattress on the kitchen floor – Mum wasn’t strong enough to go upstairs more than once a day, so she napped there.

Last September I started secondary school, and it was hard to settle in because of all the disruption. We had to isolate when people in my class tested positive, and I was sent home sick lots of times because I’ve got Long Covid too. Mine’s not as bad as Mum’s, but my symptoms come back every few weeks. It’s frustrating not knowing when that’ll stop.

We were still doing lots of the household chores too. We still are actually, because although Mum’s much better than she was, she hasn’t had a symptom-free day since falling ill. It drives me mad when I see people not wearing masks, because they haven’t seen the serious side of Covid for themselves. Before she was ill, Mum cycled 13 miles a day on her commute. Now she uses a wheelchair.

On the plus side, I think I’ve matured a lot. I’m more capable, and more understanding of other people and how difficult life can be. I just want to live my life now, and take all the opportunities that come my way.

For more information on Long Covid and to donate, see the website. 

Jeremy Attoh Ammah, 13 

Jeremy, 13, lives in Slough with his mother, father and two younger sisters. In early 2020, he was diagnosed with high-grade bone cancer. He needed chemotherapy and surgery, all during the pandemic.

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