The heartbreaking reality of a mother separated from her child
Children can carry the coronavirus without showing symptoms and, to that end, it's important to keep them away from those who are at risk, such as the elderly or those with underlying conditions.
That makes it difficult for the likes of Ballymahon's Laura Noonan to get the comfort she needs from the arms of her daughter Freya, while isolated in hospital.
Laura has been battling a rare illness for as long as her daughter has been a live and a video she posted online of Freya waving to her and signalling 'I love you' from the street shows the stark reality of what coronavirus in Ireland can do to a family.
And, while Laura herself does not have the Covid-19 virus, she is at risk and has to be separated from her child for her own safety.
"This is not the first time we have had visits through the glass of a hospital window," said Laura.
"We grew very accustomed to that. It was very different that time. There was a defined period it would last for and I knew when my numbers picked up enough I would be reunited with them albeit with each of us gowned and masked.
"This is so different. This time there is no defined period. I have no idea how long I will be seeing my family through a pane of glass or on a video call of some type. I’m lucky I’m able to have my phone and use it. Many times, even during this admission I didn’t have my phone as I was too sick to manage it!"
Laura is always in isolation in hospital due to her "lack of a functioning immune system" from chemo and other medications. But she says she can usually see close family members as long as they strictly adhere to the hygiene rules and wear masks, gloves and aprons/gowns as directed by hospital staff.
"This time is different. This time I can’t see anyone. Nobody in or out of the hospital without security clearance," said Laura.
"This time it was sprung on us with no real warning. I was told along the grapevine on Friday that no more visitors were allowed. That was it. There was no time to gather up stuff to bring in to me. Simple things like toiletries and clean PJs.
"Family have since dropped things to the reception which are passed on after being sanitised but it’s very hard to know they are in the building and I still can’t see them even for a minute."
This is the reality of coronavirus in Ireland, she added, saying that Covid-19 has been "badly managed" and "shambolically handled", as Ireland "waited and waited until it was too late to instigate proper infection control measures".
"We should have and could have taken advantage of our little Emerald Isle’s location on the periphery of Europe and kept this virus out," said Laura.
"Instead we as a nation, who are known to be the people of a 100,000 welcomes or Céad míle fáilte, through an ineffective government and department of health welcomed this virus with open arms onto our island, through our airports and into our cities, towns, villages and through some of our front doors into our hallways and kitchens.
"We almost offered it tea in an effort to be seen as amicable, welcoming and warm. We wouldn’t want the tourist industry to be harmed as we couldn’t afford that but I am certain we cannot afford what has now happened. Our health service was on its knees already before any of this started.... for the first time I’ll say with regard to this comment: trust me, I’m a doctor."
Until more people have to be separated from their families for the sake of health and safety, Laura says it's difficult for people to even contemplate what this will do to the nation and to our communities, towns, families and friends.
"It’s all slightly intangible for many still, thankfully. It’s a nebulous concept and uncertainty has people panicking. Why are we seeing photos of empty toilet roll shelves in the shops? It’s not because people think that it will help in the war against Corona but more because people need to feel they are doing something - that they are being proactive and doing all they can to protect and prepare themselves and their families and toilet rolls are the external manifestation of that.
"Until it knocks on your door, you won’t know how you will deal with it but most people find incredible strength they didn’t even know they had when faced right on with a crisis."
On a personal level, it has been heartbreaking for Laura to be separated from her daughter and to have to wave to her from her isolation room, two storeys high.
"This little girl has no idea when she will get to see me again or when she will get to give one of her fix all hugs. She hasn’t had me at home participating in family life since early January - that’s a long time in anyone’s life but when you're seven, it must feel like an eternity," said Laura.
"She has done isolation with me before and knows what it entails. I wish she hadn’t and wish she didn’t but that’s the reality of our lives. She is reading the headlines and seeing the news about this global pandemic and like every child she is scared. Scared for herself, scared for the family and scared for me.
"She knows how sick I am and constantly worries that she might give me something she has caught at school whenever I’m home because that has happened in the past. No child should feel that level of responsibility or guilt. She knows if I get this that I will most likely not survive.
"Imagine carrying that on your shoulders - at seven years old? Imagine only seeing your mother through a window in a building closed off with security tape and biohazard signs and security on the door? I know I couldn’t have coped with that at her age. I’m certain of that. I’m in awe of her bravery."
Laura has been in isolation for over a week as doctors work to keep her safe while she receives treatment.
In her latest post, Laura issues a plea to the nation to stay home in an effort to save those who are at risk.
"The first casualties of this war have been taken, many more battle on in wards and ICU beds not knowing if dawn will break for them again- possibly wishing for darkness to dispel the suffering and suffocation," she said.
"These early soldiers may in fact be the lucky ones. They are being treated in hospitals. Real life hospitals with experienced staff and doctors to care for them. They are not in field hospitals and re-purposed buildings with not enough staff or medicine or machinery to go around as will likely happen in coming weeks.
"Lockdown Ireland needs to be properly introduced. Stay at home. Stop the spread. Save our souls. Our sick, elderly, weak and infirm. Save them all."
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