Belfast Celtic manager and former Glentoran captain Stephen McAlorum says he fears he may have to stay away from his wife Orlagh and four-year-old daughter Fiadh for weeks or even months during the coronavirus crisis.
Little Fiadh is living with cystic fibrosis and in a high risk group as the disease continues to take lives.
The Belfast man runs two confectionery shops on the Springfield Road and needs to provide for his family but he fears he will bring the virus home and that could have fatal consequences.
Stephen and Orlagh, a full-time carer for Fiadh, have consulted medical experts and say her health and well being will always be at the centre of any decision they take.
But it would be a heartbreaking change to Stephen's life if he was to be cut off from his loved ones.
"With her cystic fibrosis, Fiadh is vulnerable and the coronavirus attacks the respiratory system, that's where her problems are," he said.
"We don't know how she would cope with it, it could be fatal.
"We want to shield her from this virus and isolate her as much as possible. All cystic fibrosis patients have to self isolate, that's the government advice.
"It's a dilemma for us, what do we do?"
Stephen added: “Do I continue to work and try to be careful or leave? I’m naturally scared she could lose her life, so we have to take this seriously. The situation seems to be deteriorating and we have to do what is best for our family.
“One of the reasons why I stepped back from football was because I knew Fiadh would need a lot more help but this is a nightmare. We are only at the start of this epidemic and you look at how Italy has been affected. Countries are in lockdown.”
The former Ballymena United midfielder, who won two Irish Cups with Glentoran, has seen his life turned upside down by the coronavirus and he’s taking extreme measures to shield Fiadh from the disease.
“I have two confectionery shops and I just can’t stop working,” added the 33-year-old.
“The nurses recognised that but they insisted I needed to be smart about the situation.
“If I am coming home, I have to take off my clothes at the door, get a shower, clean everything and put clothes in the wash. Every precaution has to be taken and we just don’t know the best thing to do.
“We would certainly have to be separated if I was to show any symptoms.
“I’m working with the public and still trying to provide for the family. Would it be better for me to isolate and leave them for 12 weeks?
“It’s a worse case scenario and still an option for us to be safe. It’s a long time to be away.
“Myself and Orlagh are mulling over our options but we will make decisions in Fiadh’s best interest.”
Even if Stephen decides to remain close to the family, their movements in the coming weeks will be greatly restricted.
“We can’t be near any crowds or go to the supermarket, or to any events, and she can’t see her grandparents,” added Stephen, who also has a son, Connlaoi.
“Nurses have advised me to self isolate and take precautions by staying away from people when possible. This virus could be with us for some time and there’s always that risk and fear you could bring the virus home.”
Orlagh, mum to Niamh, Connlaoi and Fiadh, expressed her fears on Twitter, stating: “Having to isolate for 12 weeks is one of the scariest things I’ve had to do. The thought of our family having to split for 12 weeks is heartbreaking. Not seeing my mum, my husband having to separate from us because he still needs to go out and provide.”
Stephen added: “The nurses have checked Fiadh and she’s doing well at the moment. We are desperate for it to stay that way.”