Hear Our Stories

Mark's Story

My name is Mark Oakley and I have been shielding for just over 900 days.

I am immunocompromised because I have an illness called pulmonary sarcoidosis, which I have had for eleven years. I’m on heavy medication to deal with that, which suppresses your immune system.

My daily challenges with shielding are trying to live a normal life when I have children in the house and being able to allow them to have some kind of normal life while still protecting me.

Before the pandemic, life was fairly normal, like any normal family, a little bit limited because of my illness but we lived a normal happy life.

My family life revolves around three children, one of whom is 31 and lives away from home. I haven’t held her for over 900 days now. I have two children at home who are at college and school. Every day is a challenge. We have to think about what activities they can do so they don’t put me in a compromised position but still allow them some freedom. I’ve got a 91-year old mother whom I haven’t cuddled since this began and my biggest fear is that I may not get to cuddle her before this is over, ever again.

In terms of other family members, I’ve got inlaws who live away from home. We can't see those. I’ve got brothers, cousins, nieces and nephews. And again I can only see those at a distance. There’s been times when I’ve had to live separately from my family in a summerhouse in the garden to protect myself when the risk has been high as well.

At the very start of the pandemic I had to close my successful landscaping business down. I’ve lost that, I’ll never get that back again. I’ve had to give up contact with lots of friends because they are not in the position to be able to take precautions to see me. I have lost my freedom. I have lost freedom to go to shops, restaurant, pubs, live a normal life. Go on holiday. And my family has as well.

The thing I miss most about life? Just being able to walk out the front door without any fear. Without having to constantly look over my shoulder or forward-think everything to do. I just miss the freedom to be able to choose and live normally.

It has restricted my physical health because it has restricted the kind of thing that I will do. In terms of my mental health, it’s definitely had an effect, it’s very much a rollercoaster of ups and downs. And it’s effectively my family’s as well, with the strain of constantly worrying.

We have to be very cautious. We have a teenage daughter who wants to do things like see her friends, go to parties or concerts. My younger daughter wants to do various clubs. In some cases we’ll allow them to do it and I’ll shield from them by living separately from them. In some cases when the risk is too high we just have to say sorry you can’t do it. It’s just a constant battle every day.

If I got Evusheld, the first thing I would do would be getting in a car and driving to my daughter to go and cuddle her. Then drive to my mother and cuddle her. Then I’d take my family to a restaurant. It’s not too much to ask really.

Shannon’s Story

I'm Shannon Banks, and I've been shielding for the past two and a half years.

Before the pandemic, I was travelling around the world with my work. In 2019, I visited the US, Kenya, Brazil, China, much of Europe, and worked in all those places. I was living with my husband and my daughter running a successful business, had a lot of friends, and went out and saw people.

For nearly two years, I've been living in a flat on my own separate from my husband and my daughter, while I've been shielding, so that my daughter can attend school. My daughter is 16 years old now.

It's hard to describe what it feels like to shield for this long. It's really impossible to summarise the things that I miss. I've really watched my friends move on with their lives, and I feel really separate from them. And even my husband is working from home in order to protect me as much as he can. And so he and my daughter are also massively impacted.

The flat that I'm renting is across the street from our house. And so my husband makes dinner for us every evening, and I go there and eat at a distance in the garden with them so that I see them every day. But it's not the same as living in the house with them.

I'm immunocompromised because I have a disease called lupus and I'm not protected by the vaccine. The drugs that I'm on create immunosuppression. And the data says I'm at an extremely high risk from COVID.

I'm British but I'm originally from the United States and my family mostly are in the US. And I haven't seen my brother or my sisters in almost three years. And I really miss them. I'm not able to travel on public transport, or fly. And that means that not only can I not see them, I also have had to give up quite a lot of work. I've been lucky that I've converted a lot of my work to virtual. But I still get asked to do things that I'm unable to do. I miss spending time with my friends in their homes. I haven't been in anyone's home since the start of the pandemic. I miss eating in restaurants. I miss going to pubs, I miss going to the theatre. I miss getting my hair cut. I miss almost everything. I'm stuck in this place.

I think people underestimate the complexity of the illnesses that many of us have, that we live with anyway. And as a result of my lupus, I do spend quite a lot of time in doctors' offices and hospitals. And I think that's true for many of us in the immunocompromised community. COVID has just made this even more difficult, because every time we enter a hospital, we put ourselves at risk. I think from a mental health perspective, I feel like I've managed to stay reasonably resilient. But it's very hard, not being able to live a normal life, and also not knowing how it ends, and when we actually get out of this situation.

If I got Evusheld, I would immediately move back home and be back together with my husband and my daughter who's grown from 14 to 16 while I've been away from her. I really need Evusheld to get home again.

Marcus's Story

My name is Marcus and my illness is leukaemia. I have been shielding for two and a half years. Ever since the pandemic began, I have been living in the same house but separately from my wife and son, we would meet in the evening to eat outside. If it was wet we’d hide under umbrellas.

After about 2 years of living completely separately, with my increasing anxiety and loneliness, my wife decided she should give up her work as a teacher. This relieved my loneliness but it added to our worries because of the huge financial pressure.

My mental health was deteriorating for about two years. I felt anxious, I felt lonely, I felt completely excluded from life. I felt I wasn’t contributing to the life of my family, or a society. I couldn’t make etchings, which is what I love doing. I couldn't teach, I couldn’t give workshops. I couldn’t give the masterclasses which I had started to give. I couldn’t even see my own work in my own exhibitions.

With Evusheld, I hope that I could start to live like everyone else again. That I could work, that I could use public transport, I could go into shops, I could go to galleries and museums again, and that I could see family and friends again.

Lesley's Story

My name is Leslie and I've been shielding since March 2020. Life before the pandemic was normal. Tiredness is one of the symptoms of my conditions but I counteracted that by keeping busy, had an active social life, went to the gym, was in clubs, went out with friends and did classes. In the beginning, I don't think any of us imagined how long this would go on for, or would that we'd be in the same situation nearly three years later. I have a couple of conditions, but my main one means my body doesn't make antibodies, so I can't protect myself against infection. The vaccines don't work on me. I'm currently isolated with my family, and they gave up their lives for me. But this year mentally it was taking its toll so they've been doing a bit more but safely. I do miss my extended family though, and all the family gatherings that we once had. Evusheld would quite simply give me my quality of life back. It won't be a silver bullet, but it will put us on more of an even keel to the rest of the country and help us to live with COVID Like everybody else.

Carole’s Story

My name is Carol Bonner. And I've been shielding since the very beginning in April 2020.

I have mobility problems, so I have to let delivery people in to help me with my shopping or getting neighbours to do it or my son. So that's been very difficult for me. For instance, for the whole of 2020, Rama was waiting for a hip replacement and could barely walk. So that's created its own separate challenges.

So before the pandemic, I used to go on holiday a couple of times every winter. I have a big network of friends and I would go out socially, to restaurants, pubs, ran to people's houses. I'm quite active in my local community as well. So I would go to community meetings. And so that was a big change.

And the reason that I'm immunocompromised is because I've had rheumatoid arthritis for just over 40 years now. And the drugs that I'm on to control the rheumatoid arthritis suppressed my immune system. In particular, the one I'm on at the moment, I think completely wiped out my T cells, which are a big part of your immune response. So even though I've had six vaccines now, I don't actually know whether I've made any antibodies.

And in fact, after five vaccines, I caught COVID In July, which was not a nice experience.

I live on my own. And certainly, it was easier when it was in complete lockdown because my son who lives locally, couldn't work because he works in the entertainment industry and nothing was happening. So he actually moved in with me, which was a lease company for ourselves. But I haven't seen my eldest son since February 2020. And that's partly because of my situation, but also because his partner is a transplant recipient. And she is also fully shielding because she has no immune system whatsoever. So we haven't been able to see each other since the beginning, before the beginning of the pandemic.

So I think I was saying earlier that living on your own when you've got some mobility problems, makes it quite difficult when you need to get things delivered, or you need work done in your property, you have to let people in. Because that's the only way that it can be done. I mean, I haven't been in a shop or on public transport since the beginning of the pandemic, either. So I get everything delivered. And when I was getting my groceries delivered, initially, after my son had been able to go back to work and wasn't staying with me anymore, I used to have to get my neighbours or someone else to come around to help me bring the shopping in. But I'd have to ask them to do a COVID test before they did that, so that I knew that they weren't bringing COVID into my house.

In terms of mental health, I think on the whole, I'm a pretty resilient person. And I've been fortunate that I've been able to do quite a lot of work from home. I don't work full time anymore, but I can choose when I work and my employers have been very accommodating and allowing me to do that. From home or over video conference when necessary. But I think that's been a good mental stimulus. And I think without that, and without very supportive friends actually, who have kept in touch with me and you know, have had conversations, you know, from the end of the path outside or when we were allowed outside meetings, you know, not meetings, but, you know, get togethers, we've been able to get together in the garden. But it's been a struggle adapting to a very different life than I would like to be leading.

If I could get Evusheld, I would love to go on holiday. I've really missed my regular trips abroad, but I'm not prepared to risk going on public transport of any description as things stand, which is very limiting because it means that I can only go to places where I can drive and park.