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UEA video for two-year-old separated from student nurse mother

As the nation’s health workers continue to work selflessly to tackle the challenge of COVID-19, one University of East Anglia (UEA) student has had to make one of the most difficult sacrifices of all, separating herself from her daughter and, with help from her course mates, has demonstrated her love by recording a sign language video.

Emily Paterson, a third-year Learning Disability Nursing student at UEA, elected to opt-in to a placement as an assessment treatment nurse in Ipswich earlier this month, to provide critical support for adults with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The resulting exposure to coronavirus for Emily, as well as with her partner Ben who works as a police officer, represented a risk to the pair’s two-year-old daughter Ava, who was born prematurely and had previously shown susceptibility to picking up illnesses more quickly and easily than a lot of children her age.

After weighing up their options, the couple made the difficult decision for Ava to move out of the family home in Ixworth, a village near Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, to stay with Emily’s parents until the current social distancing measures have eased.

Emily dropped her off when she started her placement working for the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust three weeks ago and since then has only been able to contact Ava over video call.

Emily said: “There were countless times where we tried to work out ways where we could keep Ava but we decided that it was a risk we couldn’t take.

“It’s been more difficult than I could have imagined – my parents live in Ixworth as well and in some ways that’s made it harder knowing that Ava’s just round the corner and there’s nothing we can do. I try to avoid going in her bedroom to keep it out of my mind and I’ve been working as many hours as I can as it’s a good distraction.

“We video call her three times a day, it’s become part of the routine now, and at the moment she’s potty training, so we’re getting regular updates on that! We’re holding out hope that we’ll be allowed to see her in June.”

As a way of keeping her connected with Ava during their time apart, Emily channeled her efforts into creating a video as a tribute. She decided to use Sign Language to sign along to the tune of Somewhere Over The Rainbow, a song that has become synonymous with inspiring hope and solidarity during the coronavirus pandemic, and wanted to enlist others from her course to join her.

The first person Emily turned to for help was Kirsty Henry, Learning Disability Nursing Lecturer at UEA, who has creatively used her Twitter account during the Covid-19 pandemic to share daily Signalong videos.

Emily said: “I had this wacky idea so I emailed Kirsty to see what she thought and she said she would support it and we contacted other students on the Learning Disability Nursing course to see if they would help.

“Honestly, I thought there would maybe be a couple who might respond and I couldn’t believe the numbers of people who sent clips back. People had to take time to learn the signs and I’m so grateful to all of them – but especially Kirsty who has given me the best support I could have possibly asked for.”

Kirsty said: “Emily is such an inspiration and it really is the ultimate dedication to the profession of nursing to not only put yourself at risk but to have to separate from your young daughter as well.

“It’s hard to imagine the sacrifice that she’s made but when she asked for help, I jumped at the opportunity and I’m so proud that so many of our students decided to contribute too. We’re all hoping that Emily and Ava can be reunited as soon as possible.”

You can watch the UEA Learning Disability Nursing students’ Somewhere Over The Rainbow signage video on their Facebook page.