COVID transformed this bedridden woman's life. Now she fears she'll lose it all


Ricky, who has been bedridden for two decades, has told the Disability Royal Commission she fears that when the coronavirus pandemic ends she will lose access to the technology that's had a profound impact on her life.

For Ricky Buchannan, 45, staying home is nothing new.

She’s been housebound and mostly bedbound for the last 20 years, after a bout of glandular fever saw her only get sicker instead of better.

She relies on paid support workers to take care of things like cooking, cleaning and shopping. While she’s able to use her computer to draw, do online short courses and connect with people, she can’t sit up in bed and needs to spend most of her time laying flat, often with her eyes closed.

While the coronavirus outbreak poses profound risks to chronically ill and disabled people like Ricky, the pandemic also brings some unexpected benefits for people who were already forced to confine themselves.

The push towards bulkbilled Telehealth services – with a significant funding boost from the Federal Government – means Ricky can now speak to a doctor without using a stretcher ambulance, an ordeal that would take her at least a month to physically recover from.

“It’s been amazing,” Ricky tells Insight. “I’ve been able to speak to a specialist on the phone, and my GP has been able to phone me up, and actually get rebated for that.”

Ricky pictured in 1999. She's been mostly bedbound for the past 20 years.

Concerts, museums and film festivals have also quickly gone online, giving Ricky so many entertainment options she “can’t do them all … which is just the most amazingly wonderful problem to have, when the usual problem is that a lot of things aren’t available online.”

Disability advocates like Ricky have been asking for affordable Telehealth for years, and while there’s a sense of frustration that it’s become available so quickly for the general public, Ricky’s main concern is what will happen when the worst of the pandemic is over.

“I really hope that these opportunities don’t go away,” she says.

“Access to medical care is something that’s a huge problem for people who are bedridden and homebound. Not just for me, but virtually everyone.

"It’s really difficult to find anyone to do even basic GP services. If Telehealth is still available in the future after this is over, it would just be amazing. I really, really hope that happens.”

Insight hears from people who have lived in confinement as they share the challenges they faced, how they coped, and what they learned from the experience. Earlier this year Ricky appeared on Insight episode, Confined.