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Life is put on hold for Northern Ireland woman Maud Tinsley (20) as she is forced to self isolate as a diabetic


Maud Tinsley at remote farmhouse near Magherafelt

Maud Tinsley at remote farmhouse near Magherafelt

Maud Tinsley at remote farmhouse near Magherafelt

Last weekend Maud Tinsley was looking forward to celebrating the end of her rugby season at the University of Kent.

Sharing a house with four new friends, the politics and international relations student was rarely in, such was the social life of the 20-year-old.

Today, Maud sits alone in remote farmhouse near Magherafelt, shut off from friends and family for her own protection and theirs.

She has suffered from a severe form of Type 1 diabetes since she was eight.

Having been hospitalised several times before, Maud is at very high risk of contracting coronavirus.

Life as she knew it is on hold for the time being.

Mum Anne is currently living in Belfast with two other daughters, Florence and Beatrice.

Brother Rex, last year's head boy at Campbell College, is still trying to get home from university in Edinburgh.

And father Nick is working in the Middle East for a company currently in lockdown after one of his work colleagues tested positive for the virus.

They are a fractured, fearful family, like so many others living through what are unheard-of times - but doing it apart.

I'm allowed in to talk to Maud, but only after donning protective gloves and a face mask. We sit at opposite ends of a long kitchen table, like a scene from the Oscar-winning film American Beauty, only with extra precautions, observing the new social distancing etiquette of the day.

"I was still in Canterbury last Tuesday morning," said Maud.

"I had one of my regular check-ups at the doctors scheduled for 11.30am but my mum called me early in the morning.

"I knew she was worried. She already had a flight booked for me that afternoon. I just grabbed all I needed and got home that afternoon."

Having had complications from her diabetes before, once being hospitalised while in Cyprus with her basketball team, it's not a time for taking chances for people like Maud. The farmhouse is a few hundred yards from where her grandparents live. Other families live nearby, so there's always someone around to look out for her. But for most of her time it's a life of solitude.

"It is hard, and we have no wi-fi in the house so it's costing a fortune in 4G to stay in touch with anyone remotely," she said.

"I do have some university work to keep me occupied, but we were near the end of the year and I'm pretty much up to date.

"Aside from that I'm not doing very much of anything.

It's funny how things change. I do worry, though. As I'm told I'm at a much higher risk of contracting this, and that it will hit me harder than many Maud Tinsley

"I would have loved to have stayed with my friends in England, but it was never going to be realistic for me to do that. In any case, all the university events planned for the next few weeks had been cancelled anyway.

"I know I'm better off here, but there's only so many old episodes of Ibiza Weekender you can watch!"

For now it's about being content with watching classic movies, sparingly using 4G to keep up with coursework, and sitting it out. The mask only slips for a few moments to pose for a photograph.

"It was starting to get scary a couple of weeks ago," said Maud.

"Watching the news every night, hearing what was going on in other parts of the world and what was probably coming our way.

"When you're in my position it's always a good idea to make sure whatever medication you need is at hand.

"I have to inject myself every day and the insulin I need can't be ordered as a normal prescription. It's a special order. Before I left Canterbury I stocked up and that should get me through the next few weeks.

"I'll just have to keep on top of it, and as it can take a few days for it to arrive I'll need to make sure I don't run out."

However, part of Maud's routine was trying to keep active.

"I have to for my health. I've had to give up swimming as all the leisure centres are closed, and it really wouldn't have been a good idea for me to go there anyway. I played rugby every week but all that has gone. The basketball, too, and the gym," she said.

"Right now I'm finding it difficult to bring myself to go out for a walk, even though I'm out here in the countryside pretty much on my own most of the time.

"I haven't been out of the house since I got home. I'm relying on other people to get what I need. My grandparents live right beside me now and it should be me who's looking after them.

"It's funny how things change. I do worry, though. As I'm told I'm at a much higher risk of contracting this, and that it will hit me harder than many. I don't want to be responsible for passing it on to anyone, especially not family.

"My dad is stuck in Bahrain for now. He still has to work, but in a company employing 800 it's proving difficult.

"We looked into one of us going out there to be with him, but Bahrain has closed its borders to anyone who doesn't have a residency visa. And even if he could get out, as someone from his company has been confirmed as having coronavirus, there's no way he could come here.

"He'd be allowed two weeks and would have to spend all that time in isolation."

For Maud, the next phase of her life will be about watching, waiting and hoping.

"I hope other people take this as seriously as me," she said.

"Of course I'm sitting here wishing I could head out and meet up with friends, even go into town and look around the shops, get a coffee, even just get out.

"I know other people are still doing it, meeting up, but I hope they're all being responsible and looking after each other. If they don't do it for people like me, they should think about doing it for their own families."

Belfast Telegraph