I am extremely excited about my last stop on this blog tour, and I have an amazing guest post for you all today, written by Amanda Hickie, the author of the book “Before this is over”. So without further ado here is Amanda, enjoy 🙂
Living Next Door To SARS By Amanda Hickie
In 2003 our family had been living in Ottawa, Canada for a year. I don’t remember when I first heard about SARS. It might have been that a Chinese doctor had died in Hong Kong of an unknown disease, but most likely I learned of that afterwards — a man died in a hospital in Toronto from a disease the staff had never seen. His mother had happened to stay in the same hotel in Hong Kong as the Chinese doctor. She’d travelled back to Canada and died at home.
Ottawa is about a four-hour drive from Toronto. We watched what was happening each night on the news, far enough away for it to seem unreal but close enough that we were all quietly convinced that the next case would be in our city. It felt like every day there was a rash of sick people in a nursing home or someone admitted to hospital with nebulous symptoms, and for each one, we would find out a few days later that this wasn’t it.
Information kept changing in the first few weeks. We’d hear that they had worked out how it was transmitted, only to hear a few days later that despite taking what they thought were adequate precautions some of the medical staff still became sick. At one stage a whole Toronto apartment building was quarantined. There were screaming stories on the news about irresponsible occupants breaking quarantine and putting the city at risk. And then, to make this disease even more ominous, even though the residents of the apartments had no contact with each other, they started to get sick. The only explanation was that somehow it was becoming aerosolised by the plumbing system.
I also remember the virus being isolated and identified in what seemed like an impossibly short time frame, and of a perversely beautiful spiky image, and thinking about the dedication of the researchers working on what they must have feared was a devastating threat. But this wasn’t a zombie apocalypse. For those of us in Ottawa, life went on virtually unchanged. I imagine it was that way for most of Toronto as well.
Something I discovered in Canada was pantries. I didn’t have one. In Ottawa, the weather could keep you stranded for days or weeks at a time. For all that people think of Australia as a dangerous continent, you have to go looking for most of our dangerous animals. In Canada, I learnt to keep chocolate, hand warmers and space blankets in the glove compartment of our car, not in the boot. If you ran off the road in a snowstorm it was a real possibility that you might not be found for a day or two and leaving the car to get to the boot might be the difference between life and death. I never set up a proper ‘canned moose meat in the basement’ Canadian pantry, but I did start thinking about what it would take to get our family through if SARS came to us.
One of my Australian friends who also lived in Ottawa was renovating her house. It was an old house and she was doing lots of work that kicked up dust and debris so she stocked up on face masks. When it got around that her particular kind would keep out SARS, every shop sold out. In the back of my mind was the thought that if it came to it, I knew where there was a stockpile. Not long after, her mother became gravely ill and she needed to return to Australia in a hurry. The only flight she could get transited through Hong Kong, the other major epicentre. She decided to wear one of her face masks for the whole flight. I remember worrying that the Australian doctors would see Canada and Hong Kong on her itinerary and ban her from seeing her mum.
And maybe it was more personal to me. I’d recently been through an illness and still had to go for regular check-ups. Hannah’s visit to the hospital is almost exactly what happened at Ottawa Civic Hospital. Restrictions on visitors, questionnaires (have I had a cough recently? I coughed once yesterday but it was dusty, does that count?), hand sanitizer before you could go in. It felt over the top and not enough.
Did we overreact? I don’t know. I am sure we in the West have overreacted in other epidemics – Ebola was a real threat to those in West Africa and virtually none to us, but that didn’t stop us panicking. But I also know that with SARS, we got lucky. As the days turned into weeks turned into months, it wasn’t a heroic rush for a vaccine or a cure that saved us from a worldwide pandemic. That good work was being done but it takes months or years. SARS died down of its own accord before we had a vaccine or a specific cure. It was dedicated people doing the hard work of looking after the sick, learning as much as they could, who contained the spread. It was quarantine and the dumb luck of the particular qualities of this disease. Next time we might not be so lucky. And I still won’t have a pantry.
About The Book
Genre: General Fiction / Drama
Release date: 02 11 2017
Price*:Kindle £0.99 (GBP)/ Paperback £8.99 (GBP)
Kindle $1.31 (USD)/ Paperback $13.45 (USD)
Pages: ~ 464
Description of the book: A normal family. A quiet, leafy street. A terrifying epidemic. It’s been coming for a while: a lethal illness. With sons of five and fourteen to look out for, Hannah has been stockpiling supplies, despite everyone telling her that it’s unnecessary.
Then it arrives.
At first, there are a few unconfirmed cases. Then a death. Now the whole city is quarantined. But Hannah’s family is not yet safe behind their locked front door… Basics soon become luxuries, and neighbours become hazards. There are power cuts, food shortages and an ever-growing sense of claustrophobia. How will the family cope?How would you cope? How far would you go to protect your children?
About the author: Amanda Hickie lives a brisk walk from Coogee Beach in Sydney with her two computer-oriented sons and husband and two non-computer oriented cats.
Website – http://www.amandahickie.com Facebook – /amandahickieauthor Twiter – @AmandaHickie
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*-the price was taken from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com at the current date. The price might change at your time of purchase. The links used in this post for book purchases are affiliates.