Amid Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, O’Neills’ 726 days of isolation sparks interest

March 12, 2020

One Sanfilippo family’s experience relevant to today’s Coronavirus concerns about self isolation

The O’Neill family voluntarily quarantined themselves for 726 days (4 days short of 2 years) a few years ago to avoid a common virus that would have made their daughter Eliza ineligible for a clinical trial that was her one chance at life. The family of four didn’t come in contact with any people directly, or anything people touched, for nearly 2 years.

When the O'Neill family realized the best way to help Eliza qualify for gene therapy was to protect her from contracting a harmless virus, they decided to isolate themselves.

Their story of isolation is unique and relevant at the moment as many people are wondering about voluntary and mandatory quarantines because of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and how to navigate living in isolation.

To help others thinking about isolation because of Coronavirus, to give some perspective, and to also raise awareness of Sanfilippo Syndrome, the O’Neills made themselves available to reporters interested in the family’s experience and strategies for managing work, school, children, etc. while in quarantine.

Their experience has been featured in:

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The O’Neills’ daughter Eliza has Sanfilippo Syndrome, a terminal, neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer’s in children. Her only chance at a cure was participating in a clinical trial that uses a common virus to deliver the treatment. If a child has previously had the virus, they are ineligible for the clinical trial because their bodies would be immune.

There were no promises that she would get in the trial. But if she was exposed to virus before the trial happened, she would be instantly excluded. This was the O’Neills’ one shot at a chance for a different life for her. So they took the extraordinary measure of isolating themselves in their house until the clinical trial started and patients were enrolled to make sure she didn’t catch the virus beforehand.

They expected the isolation to last a couple of months. It turned into 726 days. From May 14, 2014, to May 10, 2016. During that time, Glenn worked from home, their son Beckham and Eliza attended school remotely, they continued specialized therapies for Eliza, they had food and supplies delivered to the house, and they made heavy use of technology to stay connected with family and friends. Glenn and Cara also operated Cure Sanfilippo Foundation and raised $2.1 million through a viral video ( to help fund research to cure Sanfilippo Syndrome, including the clinical trial.

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