One doctor thinks my mum has pneumonia, another isn't so certain. But everyone agrees that she needs to be exposed to as few pathogens as possible due to her poor immunity. So she is currently being kept in isolation. Quarantine would probably be a better word. People can get in to see her, but they have to go through two doors and scrub up on the way in. She knows when somebody comes through the first door because it changes the air pressure and makes the ventilation flap squeak.
To my mum, isolation is just what she needs. Not only does it keep the risks of further infection relatively low, but it gives her the peace and quiet she needs to get a proper rest. Hospital wards are busy, noisy places. You're surrounded by sick people doing all the disgusting things that sick people do. Nurses and doctors, probably stressed and overstretched, hurry around like a herd of panicked cattle. If you weren't admitted with a headache, you'll surely have one after a few hours. Isolation from that is exactly what mum needs. It's what will give her the best chance of recovery.
It's not always a positive word, though. Yet again this morning I'd planned to go to church, to have a little contact with people on “the outside”. Yet again, I'd woken with a level of pain and fatigue that made this impossible. I'm less bad now and would risk it, but the service was at 10:30. Again I've been denied the opportunity to be part of a group. I'm not in quarantine, but I am isolated.
People with active social lives tend to take it for granted. I'm sure I did once. People who always have company crave solitude and silence. Some even pay money to float in isolation tanks, or take a long weekend up a mountain somewhere. It works both ways. All things in moderation, and moderation in all things.
I've never been very good at social interation, but it doesn't mean I don't miss it. The chance to hear a different voice, look at a different face, experience physical and emotional contact with a different human. While my mum struggles to find peace in the noise, I struggle to find it in solitude.
There's no doubt that mum is the sicker of the two of us. The fact that she's getting exactly what she needs is a blessing. But I can't help wondering whether I'd be so grateful in the same position, when sometimes all I need is a hug.