Conscience, Pricked.

Kerry Fender by Kerry Fender Additional Needs

Kerry Fender

Kerry Fender

Down’s Syndrome, my family and me – one mum’s account of family life with an extra chromosome.

Conscience, Pricked.

At the end of February I received an invitation to book my first dose of the Covid vaccination.

My immediate reaction was to feel guilty.

Guilty that I would be vaccinated before my husband, daughter and eldest son, who all have asthma, and who all fare very badly with any type of respiratory infection.

Guilty that I would get my jab before friends of the same age who wouldn’t get their invite for probably another couple of months, despite us all being in the age bracket where the risk of serious illness and death from Covid begins to rise.

Questions were asked in the family: ‘Why is she getting it now? There’s nothing wrong with her’.

It’s true, I am usually fit and healthy.

The reason I got invited to book a jab was because I am the primary carer for a disabled person -- my son, Freddie.

But still I felt guilty. I felt like I was queue jumping.

Then I developed a throbbing cellulitis infection in my right hand: the skin was hot, bright red and tight, the tissues so swollen that I couldn’t bend my fingers.

I couldn’t grip a toothbrush, a knife, a button, or a pen, I struggled to open tins, jars and packets, and even moderately warm water felt scalding hot to my poor ravaged hand.

Suddenly there was a whole host of small everyday tasks that I just couldn’t do – all the little fiddly aspects of personal hygiene, dressing, and food preparation that, thanks to hypotonia and hypermobility, Freddie needs help with.

Luckily it happened before he went back to school – I would have struggled to push him in a wheelchair.

Luckily, also, the infection was at its worst over the weekend, so there were other people available that I could call on to help him.

I simply had to tell them what help he needed – because one of the things Freddie most needs help with is communication and, in that respect, no one can help him as well as I can, because no one knows him, his speech, gestures, and behaviour, as well as I do.

A course of antibiotics soon sorted out the cellulitis, and it ended up being no more than an annoying inconvenience for a few days (although I still can’t bend my right index finger as fully as my left).

But the experience did bring home to me the fact that I care for someone who cannot manage without my help, whose health, wellbeing, and welfare would suffer if I were to become seriously ill, incapacitated, or dead.

I no longer feel guilty.

I was offered the jab for his sake, not for mine, and I have taken it, primarily to protect his health and wellbeing.


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