No hugs: Sandwell councillor speaks about self-isolation after his partner had Covid-19 symptoms
A Sandwell councillor has spoken out about life under lockdown – while his partner had Covid-19 symptoms - and how he had to tell his children they couldn't hug their mother.
Councillor Liam Preece, who represents the Grove Vale ward, has had to live through self-isolation twice, once when he was fighting cancer and recently when his partner, Sara, had suspected coronavirus – forcing her to live alone in one room of their house, while Liam and their children had no contact with her.
Thankfully, she is now well but when asked to compare the two experiences, Councillor Preece said: "Self-isolating during coronavirus is easily worse.”
Speaking of his cancer battle three years ago, he said: "After chemotherapy, I had to self-isolate because my immune system was essentially non-existent and you have to be very, very careful about acquiring any infections.”
He was told he would be rushed to hospital if his temperature rose, as it was a sign of sepsis. The main threat was flu and stomach bugs and he was forced to self isolate from his son. He was so tired and so sick, he says he didn't even want to go out the house.
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During the present Covid-19 crisis, Liam and Sara chose to work from home and stay indoors as much as possible.
He said: "The things people are being asked to do now are actually worse than that because, as long as they were well, my parents, family members and friends could still come and see me as, along as they weren’t ill and it was only for three or four weeks after the chemo.”
But when Sara showed symptoms of coronavirus, it got worse as the family had to totally self-isolate. Sara couldn’t have contact with anyone outside their house but also, from Liam and her children.
She was forced to stay in one room for five days, a precaution Liam says was almost like "sealing her up" in their bedroom. He had to sleep on the sofa and he also had the distressing task of telling his four year-old son and 18-month-old daughter they couldn’t touch their mother.
Both couldn’t understand why but his son, being a littler older, was distraught and didn’t understand why he couldn’t go into her room.
Liam said: “We had to explain to him what a virus was and how you could catch it but it was very hard for him. We told him his mum was very unwell and we didn’t want him to catch it and he had to stay away from here.
“It did upset him. There were [tears] almost every day. He would hear his mum moving around upstairs or he would speak to her through the door or we stood in the doorway while she was lying in the bed.
“But he couldn’t have a hug from her, he couldn’t cuddle her or properly talk to her. And it was bad for my daughter as well, she is only one year-old but she couldn’t understand it at all.
“And if she saw her mum all she wanted to do was go to her, so basically she didn’t see her for a week.”
Sara has now recovered. Neither she or Liam know if it was coronavirus or something else but both are still staying indoors as much as possible and working from home.
Partly, Liam explains, because although there are nursery facilities at work it would deny two places to the children of other NHS staff who have to go into the hospital but don’t have child care provision.
He is now sharing looking after the children with Sara and continuing his work with constituents over the phone.
He has had calls from residents in his ward who are struggling with loneliness, depression or who need support because they’re vulnerable.
And his advice to anyone staying at home or in self-isolation is: “If you are struggling with problems like mental health don’t be afraid to reach out and contact groups like charities or your local councillor.
"We will do our best to help so don’t be afraid to ask.”
Report by Local Democracy Reporter George Makin
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