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Time for hugs! Family of boy, 3, with leukaemia, shield for 14 days to be able to embrace him

The i 17/05/2021 Claudia Tanner
a little boy looking at the camera: Rachael Jeffs talks about the challenge of having some normality back for Dylan, who has leukaemia, while keeping him safe © Provided by The i Rachael Jeffs talks about the challenge of having some normality back for Dylan, who has leukaemia, while keeping him safe

The advice on hugging is changing from Monday. It is no longer advised against for people from different households in England and Scotland – and for millions this will be the first time they’ve embraced family and friends in months.

Many will be hugging their grandchildren, nieces and nephews. But for young Dylan’s family, cuddling the toddler will involve a 14-day shielding period.

The three-year-old was diagnosed with leukaemia in January and has had weekly chemotherapy since. With a weakened immune system, it’s crucial that he is protected from Covid-19 as well as other viruses.

“Dylan will be able to hug with precautions and still only immediate family,” said mother Rachael Jeffs. “He won’t be able to hug any extended family or friends or attend nursery until his six-month intense treatment is over.”

It was Dylan’s birthday on Friday and had close family round and everyone shielded for 14 days beforehand. “It’s hard for everyone as every decision could have a consequence for Dylan’s health but seeing his smiley face with family is everything.”

Daily life over the last few months for Dylan has been needles, blood tests, drips and biopsies. But he hasn’t complained about that – what has bothered him is not seeing his family.

“All he’s been doing every day is asking for my mum and dad,” said Rachael, 31, from Birmingham. “He doesn’t really understand why he can’t see them. It’s been heartbreaking.

“He saw his friend for the first time in over a year last week at the park and I was literally crying it was amazing to see him with another child and appearing so normal with everything he is dealing with.”

Rachael, who took Dylan to hospital when she noticed he was getting unexplained bruises and seemed more tired than usual, said being able to shield has been made easier with the help of a CLIC Sargent social worker who assisted them with accessing benefits, as well as getting a grant to help with hospital parking. 

Dylan will be having chemotherapy monthly for the next three years so his family will have to be very careful for a long time.

Special embraces for parents who missed daughter’s wedding

Suzie Bartle is looking forward to hugging her parents Brenda, 71, and dad John, 72, soon. It will be bittersweet because Covid has meant they missed out on seeing their daughter get married to husband Seb last December.

“We had a small wedding with 13 guests and my elderly parents coming was a risk I wasn’t prepared to take,” said the publicist, 38, from Cornwall. “My mum even made my wedding dress during lockdown – she used the design for her dress when she married my dad in the 70s.

“So she was like my chief bridesmaid except she couldn’t be there. I know people who had their elderly parents at their weddings but I just didn’t think it was worth it for one day.”

Now that Brenda and John have had their second Covid jabs, and Suzie and Seb have had their first, they all feel safer to mingle. “I don’t know how you are supposed to hug cautiously but we will figure it out.”

The family hope to do something special on the couple’s first wedding anniversary.

Hugs release happy hormone

Dr Sumera Shahaney, GP and head of clinical operations at Thriva, explains how important the human touch and hugs are to us.

“We are born to seek out human touch to aid our survival – touch can have both a psychological and physiological impact. For example, skin-to-skin helps to settle babies heart and respiratory rates in the first few moments of life. 

“Human touch has been shown to increase oxytocin levels (also known as our ‘happy hormone’). This can have an impact on promoting feelings of contentment, reducing anxiety and stress.”

She urged people to weigh up the risks before getting up close and personal.

“Despite all of the above it is important to think also about balancing the benefits of hugging with the potential increased chance of spreading Covid 19 – not everyone likes to be hugged and people maybe more wary after everything that has gone on last year. If however, you would benefit from a hug then life is all about finding your balance.”

Do you have a real life story? Email claudia.tanner@inews.co.uk.

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