By Sharon.

I am 40 years old and have a rare disease called chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension. I am currently working as a TA in a primary school.

During the first lockdown I shielded like many others for several months until shielding was paused,  I then had to return to work in September to a class of 30 children.   Although, I accepted the fact that shielding had been paused – due to lower case numbers of Covid  and deaths, I was more concerned about how shielders would be protected when going back into the work place. The guidance given was that the work place should be ‘Covid secure’.  In light of this, working in a school, with all children back at school, does not allow for social distancing. I understand that schools can put so many procedures in place to make the place as safe as possible, and are doing their best during a pandemic, but as I have found out, the risk will always be there.

Over the next month or two after shielding was paused, Covid started to affect my mental health,  by being in work, everyday, I felt very much on high alert, worrying about contracting the virus. Most days after being in the work environment, even though many things were done for me and I had protected myself in every possible way, I became very tearful and despondent with the government and their not taking notice of the clinically extremely vulnerable, and actually feeling like the CEV community were being ignored. Numbers were growing and as I worked in an area on high alert because of the large numbers of cases, I became more stressed about catching covid19.  In fact, I would say that my mental health had become worse since the pausing of shielding. More of the surrounding secondary schools were reporting Covid cases, which seemed to be creeping closer to the school I work in, as siblings of children in  our school went to the local secondary schools. Meaning our children were having to isolate too.

The week that half term had started, in October, I had a message to tell me that the adult (teacher) I work with had tested positive for covid19. This then caused me more heightened stress, as I had been working in the classroom full time with this adult. We also had a child in the same year group test positive for covid19 too. My augment is why are clinically extremely vulnerable people being put in this position, in the first place? Luckily for me, I did not catch covid19. However, it does make me realise that as many restrictions are put in place, not everywhere is going to be 100 % Covid safe, in the work environment.

I feel that the government has really let down the clinically extremely vulnerable community, as now we are being asked to stay home, but now doing it in such a way as to say it is not shielding. This leaves CEV open to not being protected and increasingly more vulnerable. Many people in other jobs are being forced to work by having to choose work over their health, which I find alarming. I believe that more can and should be put in place for CEV people to protect them legally and other people in their household that live with clinically extremely vulnerable people too, as they are not being taken into account that they could possibly catch the virus and take it home to their family.

We are shielding, the only difference is that we are allowed exercise and we can meet one other person, socially distanced.  I am glad of this as being trapped inside the house is no good for anyone or their mental health. However, the government promised to reinstate shielding as being called shielding. They made no mention of this not being called shielding, when it was paused.

The one thing I ask for from the government is for us not to be forced in to working when there seems more chance of getting it in the work place, when it’s not 100% Covid secure, and I would also ask that the government provides more support to access things like priority online shopping, which now seems to have been taken away from us.. Also, I would ask them to think more about the fact that, with more cases, there is a higher chance that it will be the CEV people on ventilators, and it will be us clogging up the NHS. I appreciate what the NHS is doing to help during a pandemic, but I am concerned the this will place more stress on the NHS, when I like others, would like to help protect the NHS by protecting ourselves from covid19.

I have been in the position before I was diagnosed with my health condition, where I have nearly died from CTEPH, and therefore, now I have been given the relevant treatment for it, I do not want to find myself extremely ill and on a ventilator,  because of COVID19 or others incompetence and put in a position where I catch Covid.

I am doing all I can to protect myself and others, like I have been asked to, but cannot keep doing this without some help from the government protecting us.

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