rose in water

Is the Government really telling me I have to isolate from my husband for 12 weeks?

This morning, Terry finally received his much-anticipated letter from the Scottish Government, advising him that, as one of the people at the highest risk from Coronavirus , he should isolate himself for 12 weeks, in order to stay safe.

The letter itself wasn’t a surprise to us. We knew, of course, that as a transplant recipient , the immunosuppresants Terry takes every day give him a much greater risk of complications from any illness, not just COVID-19: and, as we both work from home anyway, we’d already made the decision to isolate our household voluntarily , shortly before the government announcement was made. 

So, we expected Terry to be told to isolate himself from the world at large for the next 3 months. What we didn’t expect, however, was that this morning’s letter would also advise him to isolate himself from me and Max for the same amount of time: which is going to be pretty hard going, really, given that we all live in the same house, and, well, Max is only 2. 

That, however, seems to be what we’re faced with: because, having identified Terry as “someone at risk of severe illness if you catch Coronavirus,” the letter goes on to to advise him to avoid ALL face-to-face contact with anyone other than healthcare workers. In respect to the rest of the household, the letter gives the following advice, which can also be found on the NHS website :

  • Terry and I should not sleep in the same bed – which will be tricky, given that we only have one, and it’s not looking like a great time to start shopping for bedroom furniture: assuming, of course, that we could afford it, having just lost a huge chunk of our household income. 
  • Terry should minimise the time he spends in the same room as Max and me: so, no more watching TV together in the evening, or sitting next to each other at our desks in the office. 
  • We shouldn’t share towels or cutlery etc – which, fair enough, we don’t do that anyway.
  • We should use separate bathrooms: fine for us, but presumably not an option for everyone. 
  • Terry should eat all of his meals “in his room”, away from the rest of the household.

So, it seems that they’re expecting Terry to basically just lock himself in our bedroom for the next three months, with me sleeping on the couch, and leaving his meals outside the door. If we’re NOT able to do that, the letter advises us that, at the very least, Terry must remain at least 2 metres from me and Max at all times, and spend the absolute minimum time possible in our company.

Is it doable? Er, what do YOU think? 

I mean, technically, yes, of course we could do it. Our bedroom is on a separate floor from the rest of the house, and has an en-suite bathroom connected to it, so Terry could just hole up there for the next three months and not see either of us. In practice, though, I honestly can’t see that working. Seriously, though: can you imagine trying to explain to a toddler that his daddy is in the same house, but that he must never, ever see him – or that, if he does, he mustn’t touch or approach him? For that to work, I’d have to physically restrain Max every time Terry was within his line of sight – which would be really distressing for all of us: as would the reality of living separately, but under the same roof.

(And, yes, before anyone jumps in to scold me, I DO realise that some people live alone, or under these sort of circumstances anyway, and my heart goes out to them: I’m not trying to claim that our situation is unique, or that we’re worse off than anyone else here –  I’m just thinking out loud, really, and talking about our personal situation because it’s the only one I’m qualified TO talk about …)

rose in waterThen, of course, there’s the mental toll. Terry not seeing his little boy for three months. Us not seeing Terry. Me having to do all of the childcare, plus all of the cooking, cleaning etc on my own … which would effectively mean we’d lose my salary as well as Terry’s, because anyone who’s ever tried to work from home, while looking after a toddler full-time, will know that it’s just not possible. 

Is it even necessary, though, I wonder? 

I mean, if I was going out to work every day, or mixing with other people, then, yes, I could definitely see the wisdom in minimising my contact with Terry. Given that neither of us is leaving the house for ANY reason right now, though, is it REALLY such a risk for us to eat a meal together, or sit next to one another on the sofa? Because I’m generally a very, “These are the rules, we better follow them,” kind of person: I’m as risk-averse as it gets, and I haven’t questioned the lock-down or isolation period at all… but even I’m struggling here to understand why I can’t see my husband in our own home, even although neither of us has left it for two weeks now?

That’s the advice we’ve been given, though: and I guess our choice now is to either obey it to the letter, or to assume that this advice is meant for families in which one person is still leaving the house regularly. The letter doesn’t actually SAY that, of course – but surely that’s what they mean? Surely?

Either way, I have to admit that, even although we knew it was coming, receiving this letter today has left me feeling incredibly low. It all feels very real now. And, while most of the people I follow on social media seem to be treating the current lockdown as a bit of holiday, and talking about how they’re sleeping late now that they don’t have to get up for work/school, then enjoying walks in the sunshine, and lots of good ol’ family time, the fact that we’re still waking up a 6am, to pouring rain and freezing fog, and then being told we’re not even allowed to eat breakfast together, is pretty hard to deal with, really. 

Of course, for many people, the lockdown is just three weeks (or so we’re told), and I guess it’s easy enough to imagine yourself getting through three weeks of loneliness and inconvenience, if it means staying safe. For those in the most vulnerable groups – and their families – though, we’re looking at three months of this: without even the ability to spend time together in our own home to make it a little more bearable. And I know people are going to want to tell me that the alternative is even worse – as if I didn’t already know that – but the fact that dying of Coronavirus is very, VERY bad, doesn’t exactly make the prospect of not seeing another living soul for the next 10 weeks – not even the ones you live with –  suddenly GOOD, does it? 

We will do it, if it’s what we have to do to keep Terry safe, obviously. But I’m not going to pretend that it’s easy, or that this isn’t the worst thing we’ve ever experienced: worse even than the transplant itself, which we were at least able to have the support of our families and friends for, as well as knowing that, once it was over, normal life would resume. 

Right now, meanwhile, I’m not sure normal life will ever resume: in fact, I’m quite surprised by the number of people who appear to be operating on the assumption that, in two weeks time, the lockdown will be over, and everything will just go back to normal. The stark reality for our family, meanwhile, is that until there’s a vaccine for COVID-19, our lives will NEVER be normal agin: and I’m really not sure how to cope with that…

 

COMMENTS
  • ah Amber this is awful and quite frankly broke me. Thinking of you all and if you need a chat please contact me xxxx

    March 28, 2020
  • Brenda

    REPLY

    Woah. That’s insane. I mean, you guys have all shared the same germs for many years now, and you’re not letting any new ones in, so… Is there a phone number on that letter where you can call to just confirm that information?? How do they expect families to do it? I don’t even know how I would react to that. I’m so incredibly sorry!

    March 28, 2020
  • Nickolina

    REPLY

    Can you contact someone and ask? I would think that this advice is geared toward the person living with less-isolated people. Since you have all isolated for 2 weeks and already have maintained strict rules, how could you infect him?

    March 28, 2020
  • I think you’re right, that the advice is clearly for households where some occupants are still interacting outside of that household. At least, that’s how I would interpret it! We chose voluntary isolation 11 days ago, so that we could continue to see at-risk parents if we did 14 days and had no symptoms. Of course that plan has now gone out the window as non-essential travel is banned and they don’t live locally! Some people live in very small open-plan accommodation, can’t see how that would work either.

    Yet another example of lack of clarity by the government, it is infuriating!!

    X

    March 28, 2020
  • Christine

    REPLY

    Dear Amber,
    I’m so sorry that you have to deal with this! And, obviously, just because others may have it worse doesn’t mean that your situation isn’t horrible.
    I think the solution the government is going for is at least questionable – what they’re doing essentially is putting close to impossible demands and pressure on people (people who usually are vulnerable anyway), so that if those people catch the virus, the government (and other judgy people, of course) can blame them for not following the rules. It’s a horrible responsibility, I think, for families, but also for elderly people…I don’t know. I just feel very sorry for anyone facing this situation, including you.

    Also, I think, if you’re really not leaving the house and following all the hygiene guidelines, why should you catch anything Terry isn’t also in contact with? How? But I get that this is not a great risk to take – still, I don’t see why you should follow this unless you’re planning to go out or see people, or do anything normal in any way…this is all so weird. My son is a few days older than Max, and I don’t think I could do it. Even the way it is now, things are hard with working from home and a toddler!

    Anyhow, I’m rambling – I wish you all the best! Stay healthy and sane…

    March 28, 2020
  • Excuse my Anglo-Saxon, but f*#%! Gutted for you all. I am just echoing what others here have said, try to get some advice about your particular situation. It really does sound as if you’ve been extra-vigilant up till now. Can your friend who’s a nurse offer any further advice?

    March 28, 2020
  • Fleur

    REPLY

    I guess that if the three of you stay in your house and garden and maybe go for walks without meeting others you’ll be fine.
    It depends on how you live, in a busy street or a bit secluded. Because of my asthma and my parents in law who also are at risk, thats kind of how we do it.
    Ok, we take a bit more risk by going groceryshopping twice a week when there aren t a lot of people but that’s it.
    Being totally isolated from your spouse sounds really harsh. I’ll tag a dutch girl on insta with new lungs, let’s ask her how it’s done in The Netherlands.

    March 28, 2020
  • Nicole

    REPLY

    I’m sure you’re correct in thinking those recommendations are for households where at least one member is regularly leaving the house. If the whole household is self-isolating and you’re treating all incoming materials with care (wiping down deliveries, etc.) I don’t see why you’d need further precautions. Another benefit of self-isolating is that it should cut down the risk of getting ALL germs, not just Covid-19! Though of course toddlers do seem to spontaneously generate illnesses lol. So sorry for the extra stress this is causing you and your family. It’s frustrating when those “in charge” don’t seem to have a clear plan. I hope when all of this is over world governments can put together a comprehensive pandemic response plan so that if this (or a similar situation) happens again there’s a clear guidance to follow rather that all of this last-minute decision making and second-guessing.

    March 28, 2020
  • Gabriela

    REPLY

    You can find more details about shielding guidelines on NHS inform: https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/infections-and-poisoning/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-covid-19-shielding. It seems they are for households which don’t adopt them for all members. They also link a page with local shielding support centers which you can call/email for info: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-shielding-support-contacts/

    March 28, 2020
  • Hi Amber. I really feel for you. We live in England and my husband received the same letter. He was on immune suppressants for his Crohns disease up until 2 months ago to stop his immune system attacking his gut. He can’t get through to his doctor or designated IBD nurse to find out how long his immune system takes to build back up after stopping the drugs and NHS websites aren’t helping with answers. Your situation is worse because Terry HAS to take the medication and you have a young child who needs to see his Dad and a Dad who needs to see his son. Receiving the letter was frightening but the lack of information was appalling. I don’t have any answers for you but I really sympathise for your family and wish you well. Thank you for posting about this important subject.

    March 28, 2020
  • Lila

    REPLY

    In your situation, no, living how you are living is perfectly acceptable, you do NOT need to take further measures, just keep on doing what you are doing 👌😘❤️

    March 28, 2020
  • Lori

    REPLY

    Dear Amber, You sharing your thoughts, emotions and concerns during this unprecedented time is one of the few things that is helping me keep my sanity. I find that the majority of people I speak with are treating this as a “mini vacation” or as if they are extras in an end of the world apocalyptic movie and it’s all pretend. For those of us who have loved ones with compromised health issues, or family members waging war against this awful disease(medical professionals), it is truly terrifying. I live in daily fear of my daughter’s exposure to Covid as a nurse. I can’t tell you how many people tell me “I just have to quit worrying”. My standard response is “Well then, I will have your child who is safely quarantined at home with you switch places with mine and I’ll check in on your “worry level” in a week or two”. And while I never really would want to have that scenario play out, at least it gives them pause to think! Our lives will never be the same after this and it will become the new normal. I’m hoping that you and Terry are able to find a way to keep yourselves safe, sane and income stable, Max happy and entertained, and a path through this horrific(because it really, really is for some of us) time. Thank you for continuing to write, you’re helping me.

    March 29, 2020
  • Myra

    REPLY

    I can’t believe this is manageable for any of you. Surely, as you say, this is intended for when one person is leaving the house. Ask the question on one of the forums. Good luck

    March 29, 2020
  • Ro

    REPLY

    Amber that’s terrible. Scientifically I can see why it would make sense for you to isolate yourself from him for two weeks. As far as I understand it (I’m a doctor but this is not medical advice as I am not a transplant specialist) if you isolate yourselves from him and everyone else for two weeks that will be enough time for you to either 1. Develop symptoms if you are going to and then of course isolate further or 2. Have cleared the virus even if you did have it. I can’t really see what benefit isolating from him after those two weeks would be as long as you continue to have no contact with anyone else.
    The two weeks are definitely necessary as there is a chance you have it now and are symptom free and could pass it on to him.
    If you literally do not leave the house I can’t really understand why after two weeks you can’t have contact.
    I suppose that this involves a lot of “ifs” and it is safer for them to be very strict as you could potentially pick it up if you were going out to and office, supermarket etc.

    March 29, 2020
  • Amy

    REPLY

    I got my letter from NHS England and the way I read it said that if my wife isolated with me and neither of us had contact with the outside world we could still be together as usual. She’s working from home and her work has said she can continue as long as we need it.

    It means that our original plan of her going to the shops for us is out and we’ve mobilised our network to help there.

    As you and Max are both staying home and not seeing people you’re fine to interact with Terry and you won’t hurt him.

    March 29, 2020
  • Anya

    REPLY

    Hi Amber,
    i talked to my mum the other day via videocall and she told me she feels this is way harder for her than the 89 iron curtain fall and revolution. At that time she was locked in the home with the fear of terrorist , a husband deployed in the army and a 2 year old ( me) . And still she feels the current situation more
    Stressful. Back then she got her parents to comfort her , and her friends . Now she s facing an invisible enemy and has no real timeline of what can happen what will happen and how will i help . Since now it s a lockdown i m very scared of course for both of them . I wish i moved back in before the travel restrictions. But then i feared i could be a potential healthy carrier. So no you are not wrong to feel like this. It s the first big crisis we face for us as a generation and even the older generations ( the wend to war and revolution kind) are still impacted emotionally financially logistically as well. I wish you and your family health as we all go through this!

    March 29, 2020
  • I’m so sorry you have to deal with this. The hardest part about this is the two year old. While everything the said makes sense and will help to prevent corona from spreading to him, it’s not 100% guaranteed. Little kids are germ factories! I think what needs to be done is your little one will have to stay at home too. I don’t think keeping him from his Dad is realistic or beneficial to him. You are really in a tough spot. I’d do everything you can do. That’s all any of us can do.

    March 29, 2020
  • Ivy

    REPLY

    As someone who works with paediatric cancer patients, I don’t know how I could even begin to discuss this advice to our families… they certainly can’t change their own nappies or make their own meals!

    Thinking of you as you try to navigate these difficult recommendations.

    March 31, 2020
  • That doesn’t sound right- since neither you or Max has left the house in two weeks then there is no need to isolate Terry from you both (as far as I’m concerned). Is there a number you could phone up to ask for more clarification? I guess one option might be yourself and Max going to stay with your parents for 12 weeks and Terry being at home alone but that’s probably not any better.. I’m really sorry you are in this situation. I am praying things will somehow improve soon. Hugs x

    April 7, 2020
  • I know I’m a bit late to this post but I wanted to let you know, I am in England and I’m on immuno-suppression (for an autoimmune disorder) and have been told to stay at home for 12 weeks as well. I live with my partner in a tiny apartment and we were told to stay apart from each other as well. He took the option to stay home with me the whole time and we are lucky enough that it has managed to work out with his work and we have been able to do so. Because he isn’t leaving the house, we are staying with each other and are (controversially) not following the in-house distancing rules. We tried a few days of it and we just kept walking into each other in the house. It was also so difficult because you have to deal with everything on your own and it’s almost harder because the person you want to share with is right there and you can’t go near them.

    I completely understand what you are going through. We don’t have children so I guess I don’t get that part but we each have our own struggles and I can really relate to this post and everything you are going through. I started my own blog because of the coronavirus situation so if you ever what to hear a similar story then it may be helpful for you.

    I hope you are doing well and staying safe, and don’t worry, even if life doesn’t go back to the old normal, you will find a new normal and it will be just as great I’m sure! I love your blog and am so happy to have found someone else in the same boat!

    April 15, 2020
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