OPINION: Most of you don’t know me, but for those who do, you will know I am a private person.
I have made one Facebook post in the past five years and I don’t have Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter or LinkedIn accounts. As a lawyer, I use a different name for my Facebook account so my clients can’t look me up. Sharing details of my private life is not an easy decision, but I feel it is necessary.
At the end of 2012, aged 26, I pulled a muscle while exercising. It bled and formed an internal hematoma, which was misdiagnosed as sciatica.
I won’t share all the details, but as a result I ended up contracting sepsis and then septic shock. This is when the body shuts down all your organs and prepares to die. Septic shock is a common cause of death for people who contract Covid-19.
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A large proportion of people who contract septic shock die. I was lucky enough to survive, but it took a huge toll on me and my family and I continue to struggle with multiple health problems.
New Year’s Eve 2012 was spent in intensive care in a medically induced coma. All my organs shut down, including my lungs, so I had to be placed on a ventilator. My kidneys shut down, meaning I gained 34 kilograms of fluid before dialysis was started.
I have included before and after pictures so you can see just how serious this is. Again, as a private person, I did not take the decision to share these pictures lightly.
The staff in intensive care were amazing and supportive. However, they held meetings with my family every day, during which they made it clear there was a significant chance I would not survive and, if I did, I could be severely disabled.
Not long after leaving hospital, I saw a documentary about an Australian man whose wife was given five minutes to decide whether to let her husband die or save him with all his limbs removed. She chose the second option. The thought of having to make this decision about a loved one is harrowing.
Septic shock wreaked havoc on my immune system and damaged my organs. As a result, I have been in self-isolation since Wednesday last week and my partner since Monday to protect me.
After not leaving the house for four days, I accompanied my partner to Wellington city while he went to the office to ensure he could work remotely. I remained in isolation in the car.
It took him a lot longer than first thought to set up the remote access, meaning I spent more than 1½ hours in the car. What I saw shocked me.
Despite repeated warnings about social distancing, people were standing right next to one another at the traffic lights and walking past others with only a few centimetres between them. People were sitting in crowded cafes and talking to each other in close proximity. One charming young lad even spat right in front of our car.
As someone who has experienced what it is like to have septic shock and the pain it caused for my family and friends, including the pain it continues to cause me today, I beg of New Zealand, please follow the State-enforced isolation rules.
I know it will be extremely difficult, but I would never wish what I went through on anyone. If people continue to flout social distancing rules and do not stay at home, you increase the risk of this occurring to you or someone you love.
It will be a difficult month, but I was extremely relieved the prime minister announced the nationwide lockdown. Well done to the Government. Hopefully, it will prevent anyone having to go through what I went through.
Lydia Oosterhoff is a lower North Island lawyer