Sam Josephs is married to Danny and lives in London, England. Her two children are also at home at the moment, with the eldest returning from University. Sam is a registered nutritional therapist and is hosting one of our Refresh with OMS online webinars this Spring. Danny was diagnosed with MS in 2002 which has influenced Sam’s career choices. She regularly talks about the importance of diet at OMS events and supports local MS therapy centres.
Rachel Moorwood spoke with Sam about how the family is managing in self-isolation and with COVID-19 restrictions.
How has COVID-19 impacted your life?
We were immediately thrown into taking action, as the global Coronavirus pandemic was taking hold and was spreading quickly in countries such as China, Italy and Spain. Danny was recovering from an operation and returned home from hospital in early March. It was an anxious time - we wanted to shield Danny from exposure to COVID-19. We were monitoring the UK situation, Government advice and daily news briefings very carefully.
It soon became clear the situation was very serious, particularly in London and for Danny. My daughter’s school suggested she stay at home to help us with self-isolating and that really brought it home. So we started to isolate with Danny and distance ourselves from friends and family.
This was a full week before the rest of the UK was told to social-distance, and we succumbed to a growing sense of uncertainty. As I did my last supermarket shop, I did feel like a stock-piler! Without any official correspondence we weren’t yet on any kind of priority list for deliveries. Government communications were advising us all to stay home, and with Danny classed as ‘extremely vulnerable’ we resorted to using Deliveroo to keep up with basic supplies and felt really uncomfortable being so dependent on neighbours and friends to help out.
What have been key challenges?
UK Government restrictions came into full effect in the UK on Friday 20 March with all schools and many workplaces closing. My son travelled by train from Edinburgh on the same day, but what he’d been exposed to in the previous weeks, at parties and in pubs was anybody’s guess!
To safeguard Danny we chose to impose social-distancing restrictions - within our own house! Luckily we have the space to set Danny up with a separate bedroom and bathroom, a lounge to hangout and for meals and an office space to work in. This was probably the toughest time, being apart from each other within our family home. We were relieved to get through the recommended 14 days ‘quarantine’, with no-one displaying symptoms. We have now come back together as a family which is lovely but there were a few awkward moments - to hug or not to hug?! Our anxieties have since decreased but there remain so many questions about what happens when lockdown eases, whether we keep shielding and what that might mean.
Have there been any positives resulting from the changes?
There have been positives and insights gained throughout our experiences - we are more aware of cleanliness, bordering on me becoming a germaphobe! My daughter’s school has been amazing and she is busy with classwork, via Zoom lessons from 08:30-16:00 each weekday, and she is really enjoying the new structure. Having my 20-year-old son back in the house full-time is wonderful - and interesting at times!
We are very fortunate that both myself and Danny have been able to carry on working. Danny works in communications and advertising and his work is busy, perhaps even more so. He is enjoying not having to commute, extra time in bed in the mornings, being more present at home and being able to exercise in the middle of the day. He might even say his work/life balance has improved.
For me, it’s not quite so rosy! As a nutritional therapist, I am sadly not able to see clients in person but I have carried on Zoom consultations, webinars and lectures. Thankfully technology has made carrying on working possible. I was so sad when the OMS retreat was cancelled, and other engagements such as a menopause workshop and my visits to nearby MS Therapy Centres which have been cancelled for the time being.
I have certainly not had time to clear out the cupboards like some friends who have had more time on their hands. I do feel work, as we know it, has changed. While I won’t be replacing personal contact with clients, I now see how I can work effectively online and can therefore reach out to parts of the UK and even further afield; Europe, Asia and USA. There is nothing stopping me thinking globally now.
Have you managed to stick to the OMS way of life and has it affected how and what recipes you cook?
It is such a way of life for us that lockdown hasn’t had that much impact on our cooking. However, I still can’t get online supermarket deliveries for love nor money, but I have found other ways to get provisions. Our community and friends have been extremely supportive in helping bring shopping to our door and providing lists of other shops and companies who deliver. I also feel we are fortunate that so-called health food items we rely on are much more readily available in mainstream shops now, things like almond milk. I was glad to see our flaxseed oil supplier is still manufacturing and delivering products. I have discovered frozen fish offers an increased choice over only fresh varieties, and I really enjoyed barbecuing prawns - complete with heads and tails which I would never have opted for previously!
Danny has enjoyed more home baking courtesy of my daughter too - so he’s very happy about the extra treats. We’ve sometimes struggled to find flour but have found ground almonds, and other flours work just as well. I think we are all enjoying our surroundings more - even being in the kitchen together whilst cooking has become an enjoyable family time.
How are you managing to stay connected?
We are managing to stay in touch with family in the UK and the USA with Zoom. When chatting with family outside of London it seems we are the only people with first-hand experience of COVID-19. So densely populated, London has a larger percentage of cases and we know neighbours, friends and family who have all recovered from COVID-19 thankfully, despite some being hospitalised.
I also keep in touch with friends and neighbours through calls, facetime and WhatsApp. I have a small book club group I regularly Zoom with. And it’s lovely to keep in touch with our OMS Circle friends on WhatsApp.
We are enjoying new shared experiences with friends on Facebook Live too. A few of our friends are keen DJs and music lovers, so we’ve had fun sharing regular musical sessions from the 1990s as well as reggae on Saturday afternoons.
The ‘clap for the NHS’ each Thursday is great for chatting at a distance, and waving to neighbours. In Crouch End, the part of north London where we live, many of our neighbours are musicians so each Thursday there is singing or music after the ‘clap’. So far we’ve had amazing renditions of Beatle songs including, ‘A little help from my friends’ and ‘Let it be’. It is very heartwarming to see our Street coming together - the community is stronger and more connected now.
And how are you managing to keep calm?
Meditation remains very important for Danny. Without the commute, he is easily able to find time for 20 minutes twice a day - before and at the close of his work day.
For me, mindfulness is more about appreciating the moment. I love to take the dog out for a walk and am enjoying the absence of traffic in London, the birdsong is surprisingly loud and the stars are so much clearer at night. The weather in Spring has been stunning so far with beautiful sunshine and the bright natural green colours are glorious.
I’ve also enjoyed doing challenging 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzles with my daughter. It’s a lovely meditative activity and is seriously addictive for both of us!
With the future uncertain, how are you managing to stay positive?
When we look back, I hope we appreciate how well we all did adapting to a new normal. We’ve had to get on with making pretty extreme changes and for us it was about just putting one foot in front of the other. Upon reflection I’d say whatever is now thrown at us - we can manage.
We still have the responsibility of shielding Danny for the moment and we will wait to see how the Government advice regarding social-distancing develops. Having lived with MS in our family for many years we are primed to be resilient. Dealing with the evolving challenge of MS over the years means we have constantly had to make adjustments to a new normal. Life is all about trouble-shooting - we are dealing with teenagers for starters! As largely optimistic people, both Danny and I have confidence in our own abilities to adjust and adapt as we need to. We all get on as a family, which is a bonus, we have toilet roll and we have our OMS way of life which puts us in good stead for whatever health curveballs may come our way.