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

As the nation’s health workers continue to tackle the challenge of COVID-19, one University of East Anglia (UEA) student has had to make a difficult sacrifice - separating herself from her daughter. With help from her coursemates, Emily Paterson has demonstrated her maternal love by recording a sign language video.

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

The resulting exposure to coronavirus for Ms Patterson, 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 was born prematurely and had previously shown susceptibility to picking up illnesses quicker and more easily than most children her age.

Ms Patterson 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."

Currently, Ms Patterson can only communicate with her daughter via video call Credit: Family photo

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. Ava is currently staying with Emily’s parents until the current social distancing measures have eased.

Ms Patterson dropped her off when she started her placement working for the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust two weeks ago. Since then, she has only been able to contact Ava over video call.

“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," Ms Patterson said.

As a way of keeping her connected with Ava during their time apart, Ms Patterson has channelled 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 and wanted to enlist others from her course to join her.

  • Watch the students' tribute video here:

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.

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

“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: “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.”