A father’s terror is in your hands

I am now more terrified for my daughter than I ever was when she had cancer.”

Michael Wallis talks about his fear for his disabled daughter of catching Coronavirus and pleads for everyone offered, to have the vaccine to protect the most vulnerable people in our society:

When my daughter was born, in the dark hours of a cold January morning in a hospital car park, we knew immediately she had Down Syndrome – at my wife’s twelve-week scan we were told it was extremely likely.

We also knew having Down Syndrome meant the increased risk of other disabilities. We knew there was a likelihood of her having a weaker immune system and an increased risk of her contracting certain diseases – one of which was leukaemia, although the risk, whilst greater, was still small.

What we didn’t know was going to happen was, on her ninth birthday, the first case of a global pandemic would be diagnosed in England and we didn’t know the risk this would potentially have for her.

My daughter has a number of medical problems associated with having Down Syndrome and when she was eighteen months old, she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia.

I remember vividly the phone call I took from a consultant recalling her after some routine blood tests. I stood in the kitchen perplexed, there had been no mention of cancer, but the consultant had made it sound urgent she return for another full blood count. Why a full blood count? She didn’t usually have this test.

I stood, still clutching the phone, trying to piece things together. Slowly the pieces fell into place in my mind – I remembered a conversation with another consultant two weeks before during which I had remarked I wasn’t worried about it, because she wasn’t unwell, but she had become very pale and was bruising easily. As part of the consultation, he arranged some ‘routine’ blood tests. I remembered also reading somewhere how a child with Down Syndrome was seventeen times more likely to contract Leukaemia.

The penny dropped, the phone fell to the floor, and I rushed to the computer. I googled the consultant; he was a specialist in paediatric oncology.

In those early days there was some fear but mainly it was numbness and disbelief, the other emotions you would associate with this sort of trauma come later.

At the point where my daughter went into remission I thought, ‘well that’s it, that’s the worst that can be thrown at us’ but now we have a new threat – the Coronavirus.

In the words of my daughters GP, it would be catastrophic for her to catch it. We knew she had a ninety five percent chance of survival when she had Leukaemia but there is no such hope if she catches the virus.

When we were shielding her, the risk seemed a distant one. However, now that society has opened up, I am now more terrified for my daughter than I ever was when she had cancer.

I would like to thank everyone who has got the vaccine – it is clearly our best defence against this virus, and I plead with anyone who hasn’t stepped forward for the all-important jab to think again – you will be protecting yourself, your loved ones and vulnerable others, like my daughter, who have no chance against Coronavirus and who are not yet able to have the vaccine.

Please remember, that whilst the vaccine does reduce the spread of the virus, once vaccinated you can still catch and spread it. So, it is crucial to follow the guidance – hands, space, face, fresh air.