When 76-year old Helen Armstrong’s daughter moved in with her during the coronavirus lockdown, neither of them could have known the impact it would have on her life.
Armstrong, who lives in Doncaster, has suffered with many long-term chronic conditions – diabetes, arthritis, asthma, high blood pressure, chronic constipation, and bipolar disorder – and was virtually bedbound when the order came for the vulnerable to be shielded.
Just before lockdown, her daughter, 49-year-old Belinda White, was called to her mother’s house. Paramedics had already visited, and when White arrived, Armstrong was hanging off her chair, unresponsive.
Together with her carers, White got her mother back into bed but by that evening, it was clear she needed more help. White called the paramedics back. They feared Armstrong may have sepsis or coronavirus and wanted to admit her but taking her to hospital was risky.
In the end, a doctor prescribed antibiotics and said Armstrong could stay at home so long as White stayed with her, and so long as she was brought in if her condition worsened.
“Those first few days were harrowing,” White said in a statement sent to Plant Based News. “Her carers were trying to help me lift her upright as the tablets wouldn’t go down while she was in bed. Mum was in agony being moved to be cleaned. Her eyes were sunken and her lips and fingers looked blue.”
White made the choice to cancel the carers to remove the risk of them bringing the virus into Armstrong’s home, and to isolate alone with her mum.
White called the adult social care team who she described as ‘angels’ adding: “They provided an electric bed, a wheelchair which was also a commode and could be used in the shower, and a turning plate.”
And that is how the mother and daughter started their quarantine together at the end of March.
A whole food diet
White is a nutritionist and yoga teacher, and she put into practice all she knew from her own work and studies. At first, Armstrong didn’t want to eat at all, and so White kept her hydrated until she was ready for food.
“When she did start to eat she only wanted melon,” said White. “I gave her bowls full of it, and soon she began to manage smoothies, too. I packed them with delicious fruits and greens. She wanted fruit like it was a drug!”
From there, White offered her smoothies, fruits, salads, steamed veggies, roasted veggies, whole grains, plant-based bacon, noodles and wholegrain rice. In short, she fed her mum a vegan whole food diet.
A big change
This is a far cry from what Armstrong had previously eaten – a typical diet of microwave meals, bacon sandwiches, fish and chips, roast meat dinners, cakes and convenience foods. Things started to change.
White bought a blood pressure monitor and a blood glucose monitor and kept track of her mum’s metrics. She saw her mum starting to gain strength. After four weeks of consistent improvement, White had a phone consultation with the doctor. From the readings she was able to provide, and from the improvements Armstrong had made, he advised her that Armstrong could come off some of her medications.
Strength came back
Armstrong continued to regain her strength.
“She started talking about the past, and answering questions on the quiz shows we watched. It was like watching someone waking up from a coma,’ said White.
“She lost some weight and started to glow. She has used a Zimmer frame for years but because her strength seemed to be racing back I ordered a walking stick, and the miracle happened – she ditched the frame and began to stand up straight again.”
The photos show the stark improvement Helen has made in just six weeks, from a pale, bedbound, elderly patient to a youthful, smiling woman with a twinkle in her eye and a lot of life yet to live.
So, what did Helen Armstrong make of the food, of ditching her old ways of eating in favor of a whole foods plant-based diet?
She told us: “All of the food I have had has been lovely. I can’t tell the difference with the bacon and I don’t miss bacon at all as it was tough and gristly compared to this vegan bacon. I love it with tomato and mushrooms. The green juices took some getting used to, but they are ok. The apples make them sweeter.”
But the best news of all, she says: “I feel 100 percent better and I am in less pain. I sleep all night, I am sleeping better than ever. I feel brand new.”