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Coronavirus: Social distancing plea by boy with cancer as he bids to avoid infection

Stay at home - don't send me back to intensive care.

That is the stark message of a north Belfast boy battling cancer.

Reece Magill is used to social isolation, as he and his family have had to adhere to it to keep him alive because he is much more vulnerable to infection.

And now that it is being enforced across the world in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the 11-year-old has recorded a video asking people to simply stay at home.

He said: "My name is Reece and I'm currently going through treatment for leukaemia and I'm in my last year.

"I've already been to ICU (intensive care unit) due to pancreatitis and pneumonia and me and my family do not want to go back there.

"Please listen to the government and what the people are saying, wash your hands for 20 seconds with hot soapy water and self isolate yourself, this will help contain the coronavirus and help keep me safe and people like me.

Mum Joleen (38) said the video had reached thousands of people and she will do anything to keep her son safe.

She said: "Reece was diagnosed on April 25, 2017, and his symptoms developed with a sore leg.

"His journey was absolutely horrendous. He took a very rare reaction to one of the chemo drugs.

"It put him into intensive care, it gave him pancreatitis and he went into ICU and was in there for just under four weeks.

"He took pneumonia, his lungs collapsed - any complication he could have had while there he had, but the staff were incredible."

The youngster hopes to ring the bell on September 11 this year to mark the end of his treatment and proclaim he is cancer free.

But he cannot do that if he suffers a setback due to coronavirus and that is why he is urging everyone to stay at home to help "flatten the curve".

Joleen said: "It has been a really, really rough journey. Anything going, Reece will catch it."

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Reece during treatment

Reece during treatment

Reece during treatment

The family are acutely aware of the reality of Reece going back to the ICU, and they don't want to return to that.

Reece told his mum he wanted to do a video to tell people in his own words the dangers of not adhering to social distancing.

"We are taking it seriously. And he doesn't want to go back to ICU," added Joleen.

Meanwhile, Donna Royal's daughter Eva also knows too well what it is like to self-isolate, and she was further devastated this week when she had to come out of school early due to the risk of the coronavirus.

The 13-year-old from east Belfast has been battling leukaemia since February last year. During her treatment course she was constantly back in hospital with infections, something that terrifies her mum during the coronavirus pandemic.

Donna (49) said: "That's the big thing obviously, a flu can floor them or any type of wee infection.

"Any time they have a temperature it's very dangerous for them to have any type of infection in their body, they go straight back into hospital."

Eva went back to school in November, is doing well, and her treatment is due to end in May next year.

The Children's Cancer Unit Charity Robot, which uses a live video-link, became a lifeline for her when she was at home last year, and recently, as it let her interact with her class from home.

Donna says in terms of social distancing, she believes people are not thinking about the end game.

"It's the thought of being back to tests, the hospital, drips, it scares the life out of me. I just wish people could see that."

Dr Anthony McCarthy, a consultant paediatric oncologist in the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, urged everybody to follow the guidance out there.

He said: "You have to regard that any of these children and young people who are undergoing cancer treatment, their immune system has been weakened and in some respects it will make it harder for their bodies to fight the infections such as Covid-19."

Felix Mooney, chair of the Children's Cancer Unit Charity, added: "These families have engaged in these practices for many months, if not years, and they're particularly anxious that all of us take special precautions at this time."

Belfast Telegraph