COVID-19 is a global pandemic spreading throughout our communities. And now more than ever, we are all playing a crucial role in supporting our health care system – and each other.
The choices we make today are not just impacting our friends and family, but the most vulnerable members of our community. The very patients of VGH who, in order to receive the treatments they need to survive some of life’s most difficult health challenges, are often left with vulnerable immune systems.
Nick is a young father in his 30s who suffers from cystic fibrosis. In 2019, this disease nearly took his life until he received a double-lung transplant at VGH.
Like most transplant patients, Nick is taking medicine that suppresses his immune system. These medications are a vital part of recovery that purposefully weakens and/or prevents white blood cells in Nick’s body from attacking his new organ.
“The reality is these meds come with several side effects and also puts all patients at a much higher risk of infection and severity of infection,” says Nick. “These drugs are essential for both my recovery and life expectancy. Without these meds, the new organ would be rejected, leading to damage and possibly death.”
Even though he is in recovery, the COVID-19 pandemic has left Nick no choice but to self-isolate at home. While once he would go out to shop, walk, jog or even do some local travel, this is no longer a reality.
“There is definitely a majorly heightened feeling of stress, anxiety and helplessness,” says Nick. “The very thought of experiencing severe respiratory symptoms once again has kept me up at night. Having lived it for years, it’s unsettling knowing that there is a very realistic threat just outside my door with no clear end in sight.”
The family is taking strict precautions to ensure no chance of the disease enters their doors. Nick’s wife, Lindsay, disinfects every item that comes in which includes essentials such as medicine and groceries. Nick is conducting all of his health care appointments virtually and has put on hold any other appointments that would require in-person attendance, such as X-rays, spirometry, CT scans and bronchoscopes.
And Nick is not alone.
In West Vancouver, cancer survivor Candy Woodworth (pictured left with her daughter) is trying to make the best of a bad situation.
“We are doing well and taking precautions of just staying home,” says Candy. “Self-isolation is certainly hard for me because I am always on the go out in the world. The most difficult part is not seeing my family, but we are constantly on the phone or texting.”
Candy’s mother is also a resident of Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver, which has so far seen the deadliest impact of the disease in BC. Because of the outbreak, Candy has been unable to visit her mother in person, but they speak on the phone every day.
“Please do your part and self-isolate,” says Candy. “Try and stick to a routine at home, get lots of sleep, do some exercise. Stay connected with your friends and family, read, listen to music, just don’t go out if you don’t have to.”
Breast cancer survivor Jennifer Kelly (pictured right) feels similar to Candy and Nick.
“I don’t think that people really realize that there are so many people out there currently that are fighting for their lives anyway and that this is not making it any easier,” says Jennifer. “If you don’t have your health you don’t have anything, and that’s the scary part. Perfectly healthy people are being diagnosed with this virus daily.”
“I am a bit stressed out about what could happen, and what’s going to happen,” adds Jennifer. “I worry things will get worse before they get better. And I do really worry about people going through chemotherapy and how upsetting this must be for them.”
Like Nick, Candy and Jennifer, there are thousands of patients in BC who are immuno-compromised. These are our loved ones, our friends, and our neighbours who are more susceptible to both catching the disease and suffering from severe complications.
Please support our most vulnerable by staying home as much as possible, listening to the experts, and doing your part to flatten the curve and help curb the spread of COVID-19. Visit VCH.ca for the latest updates in our local community.
Please follow the link if you would like to support health care workers or COVID-19 research.