Coronavirus: ‘You want to reassure her but then you can’t give her a hug or a kiss’

Tintori family take extra precautions around visits to grandmother

Elena (7) and Lucy (5) Tintori visiting their grandmother Sheela. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times

Elena (7) and Lucy (5) Tintori visiting their grandmother Sheela. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times

 

On Monday afternoon Elena Tintori (7) and her younger sister Lucy (5) climbed into the car with their parents Piero and Joyce and set off into Dublin to visit their grandmother Sheela.

It was the second time the sisters had visited their granny since their school closed last week. On Friday they stayed in the car and chatted to Sheela through the open window while on Monday, Sheela remained inside her house while the two girls waved from the driveway.

“We couldn’t really hear her, it wasn’t must of a chat, but it was lovely to see her,” says Elena later that afternoon. “We’re not allowed in the house with her because we might have the virus but not know it,” she explains. “If you hug granny you could pass it on.”

Piero Tintori is an only child and is conscious of staying in regular contact with his mother throughout the coming weeks. “Even though we have to be very cautious about being physically apart it’s so important to keep the emotional connection up.”

Hospitalised

Sheela was hospitalised for a fortnight earlier this year after contracting a bad dose of the flu, he explains. “Doctors told her that because she’d had the flu jab she only experienced about 20 per cent of what it could have been. But it gave her a taste of what could happen. Because of her age and that experience we weren’t taking any risks.

“It’s so important we play this by the book and take the advice being given, there’s no point in taking a gamble. Luckily my mother agrees with all of this and she’s self-isolating for her own benefit.”

Piero has visited his mother several times in recent days to carry out some maintenance jobs in the house but brings a bottle of Dettol to wipe down any surfaces he touches. Visiting his mother without any physical contact, however, feels unnatural and sometimes upsetting.

“You want to reassure her but then you can’t give her a hug or a kiss. It’s tough going but it could be worse. My mother is very open to using different technology to stay in touch, she’s saying she must learn how to use WhatsApp video. But I also think the girls should see their grandmother as much as possible in person before there’s a full lockdown. It’s also a bit of expedition for them and get a bit of fresh air.”

Difficult

Watching the two girls speak to Sheela through a pane of glass on Monday was also difficult, admits Piero and his wife Joyce.

“We were both nearly in tears watching the photo being taken but the distance is necessary,” she says. “It’s really heartbreaking.”

Joyce was already based at home before the outbreak of the virus and Piero is now working from home so the family are not struggling with childcare issues.

“I think the over-riding feeling right now is we don’t know how long this is going to last,” she said. “Will it be two weeks, six weeks or into the summer? I’m not worried yet but I am concerned.”