Covid: Shielders' lives 'on hold' as lockdown goes on

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image copyrightSheila Smith
image captionSheila Smith says she is looking forward to having a "lovely time" when she's able to safely

Sheila Smith laid her table for Christmas dinner with her family in November. And it is still set now, adorned with homemade decorations for when she can finally have a festive feast with her loved ones.

She suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder and has been shielding since March.

Wanting something to looking forward to, she got her dining table ready for a family get together at her home in Chard, Somerset, early on.

"It really doesn't matter what time of the year. We're just going to have a lovely time," Mrs Smith, who lives alone with her Great Dane, Lucy, said.

Those with serious medical conditions have been unable to see friends or relatives since March and are only leaving their home for health appointments.

During the first lockdown, they were advised to take extra steps - or shield - to avoid contracting Covid-19 because they were considered more at risk of needing hospital treatment.

Clinically extremely vulnerable people are still being advised to take extra precautions.

image copyrightSheila Smith
image captionMrs Smith's dining table is set for Christmas - whenever that might be

Mrs Smith said: "[The table] was laid out in November for when it's safe for my family to visit again - without any restrictions, without any masks, with Christmas carols playing."

She said the period after the first lockdown after normal life resumed for many was "very difficult" because she remained isolated.

"You felt pushed out and very much alone."

'Really scared'

Naomi Thomas, from Wellington, has terminal cancer and was first diagnosed in 2009.

"I've had cancer for 11 years now. I don't want Covid to be the thing that kills me when I've got so far," she said.

During the first lockdown she said it was "really hard to understand what was going on in the outside world".

"As things got back to normal I wasn't so scared but now that it's getting worse again and we've got this new strain, I am really scared now."

image copyrightNaomi Thomas
image captionNaomi Thomas (left), with her son Devon and husband Graham, hopes normal life resume soon

She runs the Wedding Wishing Well Foundation, a charity that runs nuptials for people with terminal illnesses.

"We found out that a bride who had to postpone her wedding because of the national lockdown had suddenly passed away," she said.

"That doesn't normally happen to us. We talk to doctors to make sure we are getting our time scales right but unfortunately this was taken out of our hands."

She added: "My life is my family, my friends and my work so I miss it all."

Sarah Miles, from Cheddar, has been shielding because she has late stage heart failure and diabetes.

She said she was "absolutely terrified" of catching coronavirus.

image copyrightSarah Miles
image captionOne of Sarah Miles' sons shielded before Christmas so he could spend it with his mother and brother at home in Cheddar

Her youngest son, Sam, who works at a convenience store, avoids her at the home they share just in case he has come across anyone infected with the disease.

"I can't help but wonder what it'd be like to go back to a shop. I can't ever see it happening really," she said.

"I've got so used to online shopping I get quite excited every day when it turns up," she said.

She has missed seeing family members who live further away, like one of her sons and her parents.

Jamie, her eldest son, is a mature student and lives in Weston-super-Mare.

Both her sons isolated before Christmas so they could spend it together.

Ms Miles said: "I hadn't seen [Jamie] since the week before Mother's Day last year and that was heartbreaking, not being able to touch him or see him properly."

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