One of our role models is Virginie Houthave, 42 years old and mother of Rosalie (°2008) and Arthur (°2011). On 31-05-1978 Virginie was born at 26 weeks. At birth Virginie got too little oxygen so she has Cerebral palsy (CP). Since the age of 26 she also has rheumatoid arthritis.

    living with cerebral palsy in times of corona
    Virginie, one of the role models at team So Yes

    Read below how Virginie experiences the lockdown in response to the corona crisis.

    Unreal when I think of the fact that a few months ago I zapped the news when it was about the covid-19 virus in China. I was zapping it away because I thought the images were too bad. Meanwhile we are two months further on, the virus has spread all over the world and we are 'already just over four weeks' in a soft lockdown. During our ski trip in the crocus holidays it became clear that the covid-19 virus had reached Europe and spread very fast.

    Since the beginning of the outbreak of the virus, my love followed daily how it evolved in far away China. He wasn't allowed to say too much because he frightened me and now it's not that China is at our doorstep in the rural Sint-Jeliens in the far corner of West-Flanders. Until suddenly the virus from far away China also arrived in Belgium. My love said: 'believe me, we're going after China'. But sssstttt he wasn't allowed to say too much because it scared me.

    Until suddenly everything went fast and there was actually a reason to get scared. March 17th the verdict fell: Belgium goes into soft lockdown. For me but probably also for many others it was a shock. The virus that was an ordinary flu apparently wasn't an ordinary flu after all and the message was 'stay in your room! The schools were closed, in the shop you suddenly have to keep your distance and mouth masks were worn by the staff.

    Fear and chaos in my head

    I admit: I panicked completely after I received an e-mail from the rheumatology department. The weekly syringe for my rheumatism reduces my resistance. I didn't have to worry but as a 'risk patient' I had to be careful. Since 'the post traumatic stress syndrome' that I was left with that time when it went completely wrong during an examination, I no longer have control over stress and anxiety.

    Since then, a little bit of being afraid no longer exists. It's immediately a fear that I can't function from it anymore and am even sick of it. When I pick up my groceries at Collect & go I barely manage to get to the parking lot: it's clear that everyone has panicked. In the meantime it's all chaos in my head. How will I get through this period?

    No more domestic help and until I started thinking about the medical side of the story. No chiné and will my baclofen pump be able to fill up during the lockdown? Two children at home, meanwhile one after the other mail from the school with tasks for the children, which seemed huge at first.

    In the meantime the fears had become so bad that I could only function halfway. While my youngest jumped carefree on his trampoline and sang loudly 'live as if it's your last day' along with the music singing from his playpen, I was secretly jealous of his childlike carelessness.

    living with cerebral palsy in times of corona
    Virginie's son, carefree on the trampoline

    I got a bottle of soothing drops that fortunately helped to calm down and I didn't watch the news or read a newspaper anymore. And somehow that soft lockdown gave me a certain calmness together with my children safe at home. My fears were getting more and more under control and my head was getting ready. We found a balance between working for school and relaxing. Yeah, we found our twist in our shack.

    Stress and spasticity: it doesn't mix...

    Stress and spasticity really don't mix. I was a lot calmer, but still we all live with a certain fear and insecurity. We all wonder where and how this will end. To get rid of the stress I try to be outside a lot with my children, we do a daily tour. The children I cycle with my handbike. I enjoy, sniff the outside air and especially I eat all the 'corona misery'.

    As expected my body starts to protest. The tension in my muscles that I build up by riding my handbike accumulates on top of the tension I already have from this stressful time. It takes more and more effort to get into my stretchers and I can't close the standing device anymore.

    Two weeks without physiotherapy, it starts to take its toll. Hands in fists. Abdominal muscles tightening all the time. The second week of the soft-lockdown it's hell. A body that doesn't want to go.

    The stress of schoolwork. The stress for my youngest who's having a hard time at school anyway. Being a mother and a teacher with a body that doesn't want to cooperate. When I get a spasm from my whole body while I want to pour a jar of pasta and escape a disaster, I realise that it can't go on like this.

    Care in times of corona

    I'm honest: my physiotherapist said from the beginning that he was going to come by but I was so panic-stricken and afraid that I said it wasn't necessary. It was my stupidest move ever but the fear and panic to get the virus was too strong right now. Physiotherapy isn't really something where you can use social distancing and that one and a half meter.

    The spasticity and pain and seriously impressed by my almost accident with my pot of pasta made me feel a bit scared and I ask him to come over anyway. Since then I can be there for my family again and it's actually going well. I hardly dare to post anything about it in my stories on Instagram because a lot of my followers who, like me, can hardly live without chiné, aren't lucky that their chiné keeps working. Grateful that mine wants to come by!

    living with cerebral palsy in times of corona
    physiotherapist keeps coming despite corona crisis

    Meanwhile I drove with my Mini Cooper to Zottegem to fill up my baclofen pump, so that's another worry less in this corona crisis. Little lucky in these exciting times, another full pump and an hour or two all alone and chill in my car. A suit of my heart that the care I need can keep going.

    living with cerebral palsy in times of corona
    essential movement to hospital

    What strikes me in this bizarre time is how weird people behave and how hard it is for everyone to stay 'in your room' like Maggie said. This week I told it during a video call to a friend: we're all in the same boat and actually everyone is 'limited' now. Yes I've sighed a lot and rolled my eyes with how some people deal with that. Is that so hard to stay in your room?

    Really, the older I get the more grateful I am that I was born with a disability. I've lived half my life in lockdown. When I was a kid, I used to get plastered up from my toes to my belly for weeks. Months on end in the hospital. Time after time, all my plans fall into the water. The trips or parties that we see as a family fall into the water because my body stops it, you don't want to know how many times.

    Six years ago in March when my catheter ruptured, our whole summer was ruined. I spent an entire summer in bed drugged with oral baclofen and valium. And yes, someone went to Tommorowland with my ticket. Can you imagine how this peaked? Now there's a pandemic and it's the same for everyone so it can peak and you can be sorry but it's the same for everyone.

    Be happy that you are still allowed in your garden or you can walk and cycle in your own city. Make it cosy at home, have a drink in a cavat. Enjoy the quieter life, look at the clear air that has never been so clear without airplanes. And above all, be happy with every new day that you get up healthy and well. Hang in there! It's hard for everyone, but together we can do it. I hope everyone who is a fan of my blog is still healthy. Hang in there and take care of each other! #nevergiveup

    Live Your Life!

    Never give up!

    Virginie Houthave, aka Girlwithabellygift

    living with CP in times of corona
    The motto of Virginie: Never Give Up!

    Curious to hear more stories from this very passionate, sweet woman? Then be sure to read her blog. Highly recommended!


    Sofie and Jessie