I want my children to feel safe when they leave the house

Nina and her family have been shielding since March. She shares the concerns her children had about leaving the house, and the campaign they’ve created to help everyone shielding feel safer going outside.

Two of my 3 children, Ralph and Ivy, have a rare lung condition called primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD). In March, along with over 2 million people, they were advised to shield.

shielding with PCD

Ivy spent the first few weeks of her life on oxygen because she had pneumonia. She always had a cough and was unwell a lot of the time with chest infections. Ralph was admitted to hospital when he was 2 weeks old with a chest infection. His cough was always bad, and he had terrible ear infections as well as chest infections.

We’ve only known about the diagnosis for a little over a year. PCD is so rare it took years of visiting GPs, constant infections and illnesses before they were finally diagnosed. The staff at our local hospital have been incredibly supportive and helped us learn more about their condition and was making them unwell.

Their condition means they have to do physiotherapy 3 to 4 times a day. They use a nebuliser twice a day as well as inhalers. Both often have infections which means they’re on antibiotics most of the time, sometimes leading to hospital admissions for IV antibiotics.

Ralph left hospital after one of these admissions on 18 March and went straight into shielding. It was a very confusing time for him. He’d been looking forward to getting back to school to see his friends, after spending 2 weeks in isolation in hospital.

Exercise is important to help with their condition, so they’ve spent a lot of time on the trampoline during lockdown. We’ve come to realise how lucky we are to have a garden during this time.

For us, social distancing was already part of normal life

As a family, we’re no strangers to social distancing. We’ve come to dread winter months, as the children pick up a constant stream of viruses and chest infections. During flu season we keep away from busy places and are used to the 2-metre rule. We know for many people being cautious on public transport, careful during flu season and regularly washing hands is part of normal life, even before COVID-19.

So many illnesses are invisible, making it impossible for other people to realise who's more at risk when you're out and about.

At the end of May we were told by our doctor the children would be OK to start going out for walks. The first few times we left the house, I noticed Ralph was noticeably agitated and nervous when other people were near. He said to me, do they not know I’m shielding? So many illnesses, especially lung conditions, are invisible. This makes it impossible for other people to realise who’s more at risk when out and about, especially as we ease our way back into normality. It led us to think what we could do to try and alleviate the anxieties felt by those shielding, as well as letting other people know who’s at risk.

We needed a symbol to let other people know we’re shielding

Man wearing ShieldUs t-shirt

Ralph and I had a long chat about all of this. We had a lightbulb moment and ShieldUs2020 was born. We needed a symbol that could become universally recognised, so people who are at risk can let other people know they’re shielding, and that they might be feeling anxious.

ShieldUs is going tremendously well. We’re selling hundreds of badges, t-shirts, lanyards, stickers, posters and bumper stickers daily across the UK. Profits from all the sales will go to the British Lung Foundation, as what they do is very close to our hearts.

We’ve started a petition to try and get our logo recognised as a universal symbol. We’re also running a campaign where we’ve been asking people to nominate either themselves or someone they know who’s shielding and deserves a treat. Our first 2 families received their box of treats last week.

My children will not go out for a walk without their badges on. It’s become a bit of a ritual in this house, the same as putting our shoes on. Ivy even calls out Shield Us to people and points to her badge.  

We’ve been told that from 6 July shielding guidance will ease further and from 1 August shielding will be paused. As a family we’re excited about this but a little nervous too. We’re going to take it one day at a time and not push ourselves if we’re not comfortable. 

Ivy who's shielding with PCD

We want to make people shielding feel safer going outside

Our aim is to make people feel safe, less anxious and recognised. We do not believe anyone shielding is vulnerable: at risk, yes, but vulnerable, no. People who are shielding are so strong – they’re battling underlying health conditions and the added stress and anxiety this year has brought is just a testament to their strength. 

Although shielding has had a big effect on all of us, one thing we’ve taken from the last few months is we won’t take the little things in life for granted again. It’s made us re-evaluate what’s important in life.


Want to find out more about the ShieldUs campaign? Check out the ShieldUs website, Facebook and Instagram page.

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2 July 2020