Liverpool dental and facial aesthetics entrepreneur, and mother-of-six, Dr Tracey Bell, reflects on the challenges and surprising benefits of slowing down during lockdown
At the end of March 2020, my life stopped. In fact, I think it is the first time I have ever felt anxious.
You see, it was the first time in all my life that I really couldn’t do what I do – I couldn’t go to work as I knew it. I’d had kids and gone into work the next day after giving birth. I’d had a migraine and felt ill, but felt that I had to go to work.
In fact, I think that on reflection from six or seven years of age, I’d always worked. My mum and dad always worked and I answered the phone at their taxi base from the age of eight. I made beef-burgers in a café from the age of 10 and was a waitress in my nan’s hotel from the age of seven. All through my life, I went to work. Even when I was at university, I got my taxi badge and got to work.
Before the coronavirus epidemic struck I had been running her busy practices and training my own team as well as the next generation of non-surgical facial aesthetics specialists at the University of Salford.
On day one, I went to work. There were no patients, but James (Dr Bell’s partner, who is a fellow dentist, with expertise in general dentistry, digital dentistry and orthodontics) and I still left the house and went to the surgery. On day two and three, we thought: ‘What happens now?’
We went to work to look at empty dental chairs and cleaned the waiting rooms, but we realised that there wasn’t much we could do – we couldn’t go to work. Well that was six or seven weeks ago. I’ve stopped counting. Why? Because it turns out I actually don’t mind not going to work.
“I can honestly say that the past few weeks have been some of the most enjoyable of my life, and I mean that. I’ve been focusing on the kids, my house, my dogs, my life – in fact I even transformed my job as a dentist into delivering antibiotics and being on call for remote help with dental emergencies.
I’ve loved it, and here’s why… because I’ve realised that there is more to life than just work.
The kids will tell you, mum was never home. I was never home because I wanted to ‘give my kids the best’. The best, well, education and things – yes, things. But what I’ve realised is that my kids have loved me being at home and I’ve loved being home.
I cannot describe how good it felt to be sitting in the sun in my back garden at 3pm on a weekday today – I’ve not done that before. Also, I can’t tell you how much I’ve loved painting my garden walls and exploring my garden.
“I’ve found that the people I’ve spoken to and helped with toothache at all hours of the day and night have been delightful, fascinating and so grateful. There are so many things I’ve loved, but that’s because it’s been different. Different experiences, different locations and different times.
I also think that this whole period has made me reflect on humanity – the kindness, fellow feeling, care, compassion and community have made me feel very happy. In these times, we all need this.
I’ve also witnessed or interpreted other human interactions – mostly good. Some I think were a game plan, but you always get some opportunists in times of trouble. I don’t really know what ‘work’ will return to, nor do we know how society will adopt to this threat of this terrible virus.
However, what I do know is that ‘change is inevitable’. I’m embracing change and I’m loving life, people, things, nature and time more now than I have in 50 years. So out of bad comes good and I hope that feeling of positivity continues and spreads.
As we all progress day by day, month by month, I believe that over the next year, we can adapt to a life that is simpler, one where we are more thoughtful about our actions, and one where as human beings we have to think not just about ourselves but about others.
Dr Bell owns four dental and aesthetic clinics in Liverpool and the Isle of Man and is continuing to provide emergency dental advice remotely and, along with her team, is delivering antibiotics and emergency dental kits to patients where needed.