My name is Nicholas Cornwell, I am 21 years old and lockdown has had a drastic impact on the way I live my life. I have severe cerebral palsy with multiple complex health needs such as scoliosis, visual impairment, and a learning disability. My scoliosis has caused damage affecting my lungs and other internal organs, meaning that I have lessened lung capacity. All of these factors have made the covid experience extremely difficult and challenging for me and my family.
Before the pandemic, my friends would have described me as extremely extroverted and social. I ordinarily enjoy trips to the cinema, bowling, visits to the Apple store, as well as train journeys around the country. Missing out on social events such as these has taken a big toll on my day to day life.
Not being able to attend Hedley’s College (a specialised college for people with disabilities) has meant I have received limited access to my speech and language therapies, as well as my physio and hydrotherapy. I especially miss my hydrotherapy sessions, as this form of therapy is the only way I can achieve free movement and reduce spasms and discomfort.
The government guidance for the first lockdown was for me not to leave my house, and to limit all social contact. This change was staggering not only to me, but my family too. Being completely isolated from the outside world, I resorted to services such as Disney Plus and Audible, where I could watch all my favourite movies and listen to autobiographies from my favourite celebrities (I must give “The Meaning of Mariah Carey” a shout out here).
Getting Through It
Having to cancel my 21st birthday trip to Disney World Florida was a huge downer. I couldn’t even leave my house to go into the garden due to building work going on outside. My 21st birthday was not a disappointment, though. Drive-by visits from my friends, family and carers reminded me that there was light at the end of the tunnel. And although the first lockdown was definitely a challenge, it also had its lighter moments.
Daily FaceTime calls from my carers kept me entertained and were very uplifting, as well as zoom calls from College, St Oswald’s Hospice and quizzes with my friends. I was lucky enough to be loaned an Innowalk from Made for Movement. This is a specialist medical device that affords fully supported movement, a bit like a highly specialised cross-trainer.
A Word from Nicholas’s carer, Mary
During the first lockdown, I called Nick daily to keep him up to date with any drama going on in my life, as well as to laugh our way through random Facebook pages, such as Rate my Plate.
It is important to mention how much Nick really does love a bit of drama – I even added him to one of my group chats with some of my friends so we could keep him up to date with all the goings-on and just have a good chat! The main objective whilst Nick has been shielding has always been to keep him as happy and giggly as possible. If I can’t do that, I don’t think I’d be doing my job properly!
Getting Out and About
I mean what would life be like without any drama? Mary’s FaceTime calls did keep me totally up to date and well entertained! The second and third lockdowns have been somewhat easier than the first, as I’ve continued to access support from my care team (thanks to increased PPE supplied by Gateshead council and carer vaccinations) and even residential trips. We were so lucky in January, as I was able to go away to Brickhouse cottages in Blackpool for respite and finally use a hydrotherapy pool!
We can now go for drives and trips to places such as Starbucks, Dominos and Wagamamas (mainly to appease Mary’s obsession with the place when she is working) as well as lovely walks in quiet areas. This is completely different from what I was able to do in the first lockdown. However, there are still some challenges. The passing of Valentine’s Day and my anniversary has reminded me how much I miss my beautiful girlfriend Emily. Luckily, we did manage to have a FaceTime dinner date which made up for how much we missed each other on these special days.
One of my biggest concerns in the aftermath of the pandemic is losing access to places like the Bendrigg Trust. The Bendrigg Trust is a specialist outdoor activity centre providing residential opportunities for disabled people. I have been able to zip wire, abseil, canoe and do much more at Bendrigg, and these experiences have been life-changing. However the Bendrigg trust is currently struggling to survive with a lack of funding, and it would mean the world to me if this issue could be shared more widely.
Although the past few lockdowns have had their ups and downs, the help of my family, friends and carers has helped me make it through! I can’t wait to go back to the cinema and see my friends again. I just hope everyone is keeping well and staying safe, don’t lose hope – the end is in sight!
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