Dear Virologists, Epidemiologists & Infectious Disease doctors of Ireland


Let me tell you all a brief story.

In 2004, after 4 miscarriages, I gave birth to a healthy son. Within 4 weeks, my world came crashing down with a diagnosis of congenital Cytomegalovirus (CMV). After I picked myself up off the floor, I researched CMV. I rang my OB/GYN and asked why he hadn’t warned me about CMV, especially considering he knew I worked with very young children (the primary infectors of CMV, as you know) as a Child and Family Therapist in a public mental health clinic. His reply will never, ever, leave my mind. He said:

“But you would have had to live in a bubble for 9 months, Tracy, to avoid that virus.”

My reply?

“It is my choice whether or not to live in a bubble, but by not telling me the information you had, you robbed me of that choice, of the ability to protect my son.” 

3 years later, in 2009, I stood before an auditorium of experts, just as you are, and gave a presentation on opening day at an international CMV conference at the CDC in Atlanta. Afterwards, a number of them approached me – some even with tears in their eyes – apologising for my doctor having not warned me about CMV and for him telling me I would have had to live in a bubble. One of the Virologists even went on to reference what I said in his address to his fellow colleagues. What I said had a genuine impact on them.

I tell you this because I hope those words will impact you all, too.

Here we are in 2020 and I’m saying the same thing now with this virus. I’m not asking you to make my decisions for me. I’m an intelligent woman who can make my own, but I want to make informed, educated decisions. To do that, I – and other families in this situation – need to be given specific information. We don’t know what we don’t know, if that makes sense. Surely, you all know more than we do about this virus.

Think of me as your sister; my sons as your nephews.
What would you tell me then?

You undoubtedly wouldn’t tell your sister what to do, but you would answer her questions, providing her with the latest information you have on SARS-CoV-2, so that she could make the best, most informed and educated decision possible when it came to protecting herself and your nephew who is at very high risk of serious consequences if he contracted COVID19.

Would you tell her you see no problem with your younger, healthy nephew spending all day in secondary school, with no masks, and only 1 metre social distancing, and then coming home to her (with an auto-immune disease) and your other nephew who is profoundly disabled with very complex medical needs and vulnerabilities? Or would you tell her otherwise?

Would you tell her you see no problem with her sending that nephew to secondary school on a bus with no social distancing considering the vulnerable family members he’ll come home to? Or would you tell her otherwise?

What would you say to her, knowing what you know?

This is where I…we…need you to step in and say what you would tell your own family member in our situation. Please. 



One thought on “Dear Virologists, Epidemiologists & Infectious Disease doctors of Ireland

  1. Margaret Docherty

    Thank you for this brilliant letter. Your pain and courage shine through, and I hope everyone in the the medical field reads it, and genuinely asks
    themselves what advice they would give to their own family re attending school under these circumstances.
    I was in education for 30 years, and I’ve been thinking for weeks about the schools reopening. Pods in classrooms, teachers with no masks, 1m or indeed 2m distancing all day is not possible. Children returning home to
    parents etc under these conditions, no, we must call a halt.
    Education is everything under normal circumstances, but these are not
    normal circumstances. Children learn on line, older teenagers learn on
    line. Desperate measures for desperate times.
    Opening the schools will cause the virus to explode in our population.
    A teacher talks to at least 60 people per day. 30 children and 30 parents at the door, approx 30 plus maybe 15 staff, Principal, Secretary, etc.
    Until this virus can be eliminated, we need to think differently about
    education. On line classes, virtual practicals, continuous assessment etc.
    If my children were school going I’d remove them from the system, somehow. Head out, read books, write stories, listen to music, do the
    Maths etc etc. I don’t know about the economics of all this.
    This is just my view. Maybe there’s a better way.

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