The BBC Radio 2 presenter’s sister Frances, who has learning disabilities and diabetes, was admitted to hospital earlier in the week after testing positive for coronavirus. Whiley pulled out of her Radio 2 presenting duties to help her family and speaking to Andrew Marr, explained it has been the “worst week of their lives” as Frances struggled with being given oxygen to help fight the virus.
Asked how Frances was doing, Whiley began: “I don’t know this morning so I’m slightly anxious, I’ve been trying to call my mum and I haven’t heard anything so waking up to having no news is a scary thing.
“It’s been the worst week of our lives without a shadow of a doubt. 24 hours ago we were talking palliative care and yesterday she rallied round and we are seeing her oxygen levels rise.
“At the moment, we’ve got hope. 24 hours ago we didn’t have any hope at all. She is an amazing fighter. She always has been a fighter and I’m just hoping her spirit gets her through.”
“How are you and your parents?” Marr asked with Whiley explaining it had been “awful” for them.
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“People with learning disabilities are much more at risk from catching Covid and then sadly dying from Covid, for people who don’t understand that, can you explain why that’s the case?” Marr asked.
Whiley answered: “If you have a learning disability, you have a very complex needs, so I can best explain it talking through my sister.
“So Frances is quite difficult to predict how she will react to things physically and emotionally and that is the same as anyone with a learning disability.
“Going into hospital, the easiest thing and what happens to everyone when you’re admitted with Covid, you’re given oxygen but they couldn’t do that with Frances because she couldn’t tolerate it. She was petrified, she just would not allow anyone to put anything near her face.”
Posting on Twitter after her appearance on The Andrew Marr Show, Whiley told her followers: “Thanks to
@AndrewMarr9 @BBCOne for asking me to talk about my sister and her ongoing battle with Covid.
“I felt I owed it to the LD community to explain the unique challenges they face with this horrific virus & to let them know they are not forgotten or of less value in society.”
She was inundated with support from fans with one writing: “Jo, you’ve given me such joy over the years. I’m so sorry your family is going through this. Much love from the US.”
Another added: “That was an extremely powerful interview. Thank you for being a voice for people with a learning disability. Everything you said was spot on. All love to you, your sister and family – sincerely hope your dear sister recovers soon.”
The Andrew Marr Show airs Sunday on BBC One from 9am.