Covid-19 EXCLUSIVE: Disabled, vulnerable person speaks out

Featured: UK Ian Oakley with two American cops (i.e. taken five years ago)

The classification of ‘extremely vulnerable’ – According to the UK government

As the UK is currently on lockdown, because of the Coronavirus pandemic, the extremely vulnerable are in need of assistance in order to get their daily essentials, because they have been told by the government that it is too dangerous for them to go out to get it themselves; for example, someone who has a respiratory problem may not be able to recover as opposed to a person who does not have a respiratory problem; therefore, it is not safe for them to leave the house during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Furthermore, the UK government has set up assistance for those who are considered extremely vulnerable. The UK government has said the people who fall under the category of extremely vulnerable includes:

  1. Solid organ transplant recipients.
  2. People with specific cancers.
  3. People with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe COPD.
  4. People with rare diseases and inborn errors of metabolism that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as SCID, homozygous sickle cell).
  5. People on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection.
  6. Women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired.

For those who do fall under this category of extremely vulnerable, the government has said they can provide help by “delivering essential groceries and support.”  To register you can apply through the UK government website. However, this support may take time for these services to arrive.

Additionally, for those who do fall under this category of extremely vulnerable, the UK government is strongly advising to “shield yourself.” According the the UK government website, shielding means:

  1. You do not to leave your house.
  2. You do not attend any gatherings. This includes gatherings of friends and families in private spaces, for example, family homes, weddings and religious services.
  3. You are to strictly avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). These symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough.

Not everybody who needs help is classified as ‘extremely vulnerable’

Those who are still vulnerable to the Coronavirus are finding it difficult to get assistance from the UK government. Furthermore, Coventry resident Ian Oakley, who is disabled, suffers from CharcotMarieTooth disease (CMT), and also has diabetes does not fall under this category of extremely vulnerable.

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Disabled, vulnerable person Ian Oakley

Moreover, Ian said “the advice on muscular conditions – like Charcot-Marie Tooth – is that it is not in the shielded category. So basically, I’m no different to anyone else in terms of provision.” However, according to the Charcot-Marie Tooth website, they have provided recommendations to those who have Charcot-Marie Tooth and other conditions that could put the at risk, such as those who have diabetes as well, to “shield themselves”.

Furthermore, Ian spoke with me about his condition of his disability (Charcot-Marie Tooth disease, CMT) along with having diabetes during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Ian said Charcot-Marie Tooth is a “neurological condition that effects the legs and the arms. Being neurological, it stems from the brain, because the brain is not sending the correct signals to the nerves.” He also said that it is “the most inherited condition in the UK and its’ not just the UK, it is worldwide.”

According to the NHS, People with CMT may also have:

  • muscle weakness in their feet, ankles, legs and hands 
  • an awkward way of walking (gait) 
  • highly arched or very flat feet
  • numbness in the feet, arms and hands

“CMT is a progressive condition. This means the symptoms slowly get worse, making everyday tasks increasingly difficult.”


Video featured below: Ian Oakley explains more about his Charcot-Marie Tooth Condition

Disable vulnerable person Ian Oakley speaks out about his disability

How has the Covid-19 lockdown effected Ian?

Ian Oakley has found it best to prepare for the Covid-19 lockdown as he would when he prepares himself for the winter season. For example, Ian said he typically stocks up on his essentials during the winter season, so that he doesn’t have to go to the supermarket too often. On the contrary, previously when he attempted to use this strategy he found it difficult, because the supplies at the supermarkets are exceptionally low at the moment.

“because I’ve got diabetes and I control that with my diet – basically stuff like bread, milk, fruits, and veg – but it’s almost impossible to get that right now.”

Coventry resident, Ian Oakley

Ian has been a hard worker his whole life. He was a Senior Manager in administration with the local authorities for 32 years, until ill health retirement in 2005. Fortunately, with decades of experience of learning how to care for himself while living with his condition, he has been able to maintain an independent life by taking care of himself, while also getting around town efficiently using his wheelchair or driving his wheelchair accessible vehicle adapted for disabled person’s.

Ian said, for him personally, he enjoys going to the supermarket to get his groceries by himself. Ian also said, he enjoys the interaction he gets with people while he is at the supermarket; however, because it is necessary for him to remain in isolation during the Coronavirus lockdown, it has made his life more difficult.

“I don’t have a support network, I don’t have any people helping me that’s partly down to austerity cuts in this country and social care not being there. And partly because the network I normally rely on is friends who are in their 70’s and you know from day one, that age group had been told to self-isolate.”

Coventry resident, Ian Oakley

Even though this may be challenging time for Ian Oakley, he tries very hard to help those who are in need and to be an inspiration to others. He said that he is always willing to offer a helping hand if he can, or if the technology is available, he can communicate with those who are struggling online. Ian said he has offered a “helping hand” to his community during this pandemic by following a 5 neighbour principle.

“There is something called the 5 neighbour principle. So straight away I thought, ‘well I can manage 5 neighbours.’ And then I can talk to them on the phone. And I’m happy with that, as I cannot go out in the community. So even then, by talking and getting out, you can just see it takes the mind off Coronavirus and it takes them back to their ways of normal life.”

Coventry resident, Ian Oakley

Video featured below: Disabled vulnerable person Ian Oakley speaks out about how the Covid-19 isolation has affected him

Disabled person Ian Oakley speaks out about how Covid-19 isolation has affected him

Communities have come together

On the contrary, there have been a number of Facebook Groups that have been set up by the community to provide assistance to the vulnerable people in order to help them get their daily essential needs; for example, the Coventry Facebook Groups includes Humans of CoVid19, CovidAngels, Styvechale and Finham Empower Community Buddy Groups Covid-19 (Safe), Food Donations for the elderly, Coventry Covid-19 Mutual Aid, and Lower Stoke Mutual Aid Covid-19. If you live in another area of England and need assistance, you can find your local group here.

Disabled, vulnerable person Ian Oakley has found the Coventry Covid-19 Facebook group helpful in getting his essentials as Dominik – a volunteer from the Covid-19 Facebook group – brought him his essentials.

Dominik, Coventry Covid-19 Volunteer

For Ian – personally – at first, it made him nervous to share his address with others, with consideration to the fact that he is a vulnerable person. However, after Ian established a connection with Dominik through video messenger, he started to feel more comfortable with Dominik coming to his house, in which he was able to physically see his face first before coming to his house. Once Dominik arrived, he passed Ian’s other test using his CCTV camera, intercom, and smart lock checks.

After Dominik’s visit with Ian, Dominik did keep in touch with Ian and checked in on him a week later via. messenger to see how he was doing. Ian said that Dominik is “a great person” and he was so grateful to community groups, such as the Coventry Covid-19 group, that are supporting people such as himself.

What Ian can’t live without?

Disabled, vulnerable person Ian Oakley said he has two essential things in his household – his stair lift and his telephones lines. When Ian knew he was going to have to self-isolate, he said he had called the stair lift company to make sure they would be available if something were to happen to his stair lift during the Coronavirus lockdown. Ian said that the company did say that the stair lift engineers would be available, as they are classified as “key workers.

On the other hand, Ian Oakley said there was an instance when both of his telephone lines went down – mobile and landline – while he was in self-isolation. Ironically two detectives showed up at his house requesting to look at his CCTV cameras, as he had these set up in front of his house.

The detectives needed to see this footage due to a murder investigation that was underway in his area. During their visit with Ian, the detectives asked if they could do anything for him while they were there. Ian told them about his phone lines being down and then he jokingly said, “well if I knew you were coming, I would have asked for some bread and milk.” After their conversation, the detectives left. However, the detectives returned to his house ten minutes later – with two loafs of bread and a jug of milk.

Ian was very appreciative of the detectives for the kind gesture. Moreover, their kindness did not stop there. The detectives reached out to the local Coventry police force to let them know, “we just came from a gentlemen’s house who is vulnerable and his phone lines are down.”

Not too long after that, a few policemen showed up at his house and they asked if they could help him with his phone line issues. Ian welcomed their help. The police officers had to complete a risk assessment form and then they put in a call about the situation in order for it to get fixed. Ian was beyond grateful to the police officers for shielding him and ensuring he had something as important as his phone lines back in working order.

“And that just proves that our police force, national health service are coming together to help people.”

Coventry resident, Ian Oakley

By Jessica Quinlan, Freelance Journalist Updated March 16, 2020
By Jessica Quinlan, Freelance Journalist
Updated 22 April 2020


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