Coronavirus: Bed-bound Bamber Bridge man with crippling illness makes heartfelt appeal during Covid-19 outbreak
A Bamber Bridge man who is bed-bound because of a crippling illness has made a heartfelt appeal to the public.
Stephen Harrison who cannot even lift a phone to his ear without being in agony is urging people to follow Governmental advice during the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.
The 56-year-old, who has Barrett's oesophagus and rheumatoid arthritis, and needs to be hand-fed, was left waiting eight and a half hours on Saturday to see his carers, who were running late due to staff sickness.
Stephen, who suffers from severe joint pain, swelling, heartburn, stomach cramps and difficulty swallowing, said: "I can't move my hands and feet, and basically the only thing I can physically do for myself is drink out of a straw.
"My immune system is weak. If I caught coronavirus, it'd just wipe me out. I'd have no chance. I'm terrified.
He added: "On Saturday, I was waiting to hear the key in the door. I needed a drink and I was dying for the toilet.
"I started screaming, 'Where are you?'
"You go into panic mode.
"And by dinnertime, I was in so much pain."
His carers usually visit him at around 8-30am each day. But they called him at 12-30pm to inform him that they were with a paramedic who was helping another client. They then arrived at 5pm.
Stephen said: "The NHS and social workers do a fantastic job. But they are rushed off their feet and not even taking breaks. It's not going to get better any time soon."
Luckily, several of Stephen's friends, including Wayne Richardson and his partner Natalie, dropped in to visit him around 11-15am. They helped him with daily care, like feeding him, cleaning up and helping him go to the toilet.
Wayne said: "He was in agony. Imagine being led in a bed for hours and you can't contact anyone, get a drink or go to the toilet. It's unthinkable."
Stephen says that fewer carers are likely to fall sick if people stay at home and follow social distancing guidelines.
"Self-isolating - you've just got to do it," he said.
"Otherwise, it has a domino effect. I'm worried about dying. And there are thousands of people in my position, who have underlying health conditions and rely on carers."
Stephen takes 14 types of medication, including pain relief, over four periods during the day. But he was left in agony on Saturday night due to missing pain medication that must only be taken in the morning.
"I dread night times. I have to lay there in the dark waiting for 14 hours from 8pm each night. I can't even switch the light on," he said.
"You feel like you're going insane. It's frustrating. If I didn't scream, I'd cry.
He added: "Last night I was screaming in bed. I couldn't get to any of my tablets.
"At midnight, I could hear people outside laughing and joking. They're not taking the guidelines seriously."
That is why Wayne decided to post a video on Facebook that illustrates how the virus outbreak is impacting seriously unwell people like Stephen.
"What's three months of self-isolating?" he said.
"You can watch a film, go in the garden or call a friend. But Stephen hasn't got that privilege. Prisoners are living in better conditions than him.
"There are loads of people like Stephen - if this is what it's like now, what will it be like in two or three weeks' time?
"We're on the same path as other countries like Italy. They are a warning to us."
Wayne also cannot get hold of any hand sanitisers.
"I went to Morrison's and I had to dodge everyone," he said.
"It's a risk every time we come round here. I'm using a builder's mask and I've no proper gloves.
"But if the carers go down, where does that leave Stephen? He'd be well and truly snookered. He's relying on us.
"The Government has told us to distance ourselves - but how can we?"
Stephen says he could be at death's door without his friends' help.
"I was working all the time up to November," he added.
"I joined the army for six years before working at Baxi Heating's site in Bamber Bridge.
"I've worked all my life and never claimed benefits. I'd even hitch-hike down south to find work.
"But then I ended up in hospital with a liver infection and sepsis, and went into a downwards spiral."
But despite all his difficulties, Stephen says he feels inspired by the sheer number of people offering support on Facebook.
He said: "I'm totally grateful. The generosity of the community has been fantastic."