Ian Rankin tells of ‘tough’ year being unable to hug disabled son

Author Ian Rankin follwoing the funeral of William McIlvanney, outside the Memorial chapel at the University of Glasgow in Sc
Author Ian Rankin follwoing the funeral of William McIlvanney, outside the Memorial chapel at the University of Glasgow in Scotland.

Best-selling crime writer Ian Rankin has described the “tough” situation of being unable to touch or hug his disabled son for almost a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Rankin said his son Kit, who has the genetic condition Angelman syndrome, does not understand the circumstances but is well looked after by staff at his care facility, where he has a safe and “pretty full life.”

In an interview with Times Radio, Rankin highlighted the difficulties faced by families with vulnerable relatives.

“We’ve seen images on TV and we’ve heard from people about the problems they have visiting elderly relatives, but there are lots of us out there that have less elderly relatives who are also in full-time care and it’s tough on these families as well,” he said.

“My son Kit doesn’t really know what the situation is. Luckily he’s surrounded by staff who are looking after him 24/7 and making sure he has a pretty full life.

“But the families haven’t been allowed to visit much.

“In general we see him through a gate, we see him over the wall, there’s no touching, there’s no hugs.”

Rankin said Kit’s carers have offered contact with him through Zoom, but due to his visual impairment that is not practical.

“He doesn’t really understand screens or things in two dimensions like picture books and suchlike,” he said.

“He could hear our voices but then he was just confused because then where were we? Why were we not giving him a hug sitting next to him?

“It was working for some of the people in his facility but it wasn’t really helpful for him.

“Last summer when he was being taken out into the garden a lot, we said ‘if we came and looked over the wall would that be okay?’ and the staff consulted and said there was no problem with that.

“We moved that to looking through a gate so we were a little bit closer to him, and that’s basically been it.

Ian Rankin
Ian Rankin said it was hard to learn people with severe learning difficulties are not a higher priority for the coronavirus vaccine (Jane Barlow/PA)

“Once a week we trot along and stand one side of a big iron gate while he sits in his wheelchair on the other side, and at least we feel like we’re kind of together.”

Rankin said it had been “lovely” to be able to have his son home for Christmas, but added it is “especially hard” that people in certain vulnerable categories are not higher up the vaccine priority list.

“He’s been trapped in this care facility since last February, it’s getting on for a year now,” Rankin said of his son.

“He’s literally almost not been outside the walls.

“When we brought him home I could see that he was just dazzled to be outside in a vehicle, moving for the first time in almost a year.

“I think what matters to Kit most is that he’s around people who are looking after him, feeding him and caring for him – the staff are giving him hugs.

“He’s safe but it’s hard and it’s especially hard to find out that people with severe learning difficulties are not as far up the vaccine list as some might want.”

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