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Atlantic Canadian residents who are immune compromised fear COVID-19 could be a death sentence

Jennifer Pike, from St. John’s, N.L., can barely fight off the common cold without the help of her doctors, let alone COVID-19. She wishes people would wear their masks properly, be more kind to one another, and stop with all the hate and the judgement.
Jennifer Pike, from St. John’s, N.L., can barely fight off the common cold without the help of her doctors, let alone COVID-19. She wishes people would wear their masks properly, be more kind to one another, and stop with all the hate and the judgement. - SaltWire Network

Powerful pleas




Jennifer Pike can barely fight off the common cold without the help of doctors, so the thought of catching COVID-19 is very scary for her.

The St. John’s, N.L. woman was diagnosed almost four years ago with CVID (Common Variable Immunodeficiency Disorder), GLILD (Granulomas lymphatic interstitial lung disease) and Microscopic lymphatic colitis.

As COVID-19 is known to attack the lungs, Pike says she is considered high risk because of her lack of immune system and lung disease.

“If I catch it, it could have the potential to end my life or make my life a bigger nightmare than what it is already,” says Pike.

Megan Fraser of Fort Augustus, P.E.I. feels similarly.

In 2016, Fraser had a liver transplant because of a disease called primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), at which point, she also discovered she had Crohn’s disease. Now, she is at risk for COVID-19 as she is immune-compromised and on immunosuppression medication.

“I have nothing to fight much off with, let alone COVID-19,” she says.

“I have three autoimmune diseases and a transplanted organ and getting COVID-19 with these chronic co-morbities would likely result in death for me. At 26 years old, I’ve danced with the devil too many times to count.”

Fraser says she feels very anxious right now, constantly aware of other people’s movements. She’s more careful of the spaces she puts herself in. It has limited her socially, as she avoids larger groups and confined spaces with groups, but there are ways around that with technology bringing everyone closer together.

When COVID-19 first struck, Pike says she did not leave her house out of fear, something, she says, was very difficult to do with a family. Once we seemed to be flattening the curve, she says she was determined not to let this new illness send her into a deeper depression and is now going shopping again and searching for a new normal.

Megan Fraser, from Fort Augustus, P.E.I. has three autoimmune diseases and a transplanted organ. She says getting COVID-19 with these chronic co-morbities would likely result in death for her.  At 26, she says she’s danced with the devil too many times to count.  - SaltWire Network
Megan Fraser, from Fort Augustus, P.E.I. has three autoimmune diseases and a transplanted organ. She says getting COVID-19 with these chronic co-morbities would likely result in death for her. At 26, she says she’s danced with the devil too many times to count. - SaltWire Network

Finding positives amid fear

Tim Vallillee is an Annapolis Valley, N.S. resident living with Cystic Fibrosis (CF), an incurable, deadly and severe respiratory and abdominal illness. At the age of 52, he says contracting COVID-19 would be a death sentence for him.

He says when the pandemic first broke out, his fear of surviving it threw his family into a unique flavour of terror.

“We secluded ourselves as much as possible like most people did, but with my kind of illness, our daily fears of coming in contact with COVID-19 escalated quicker than most,” he says.

“As the numbers originally started to rise in Nova Scotia, I was blessed with American friends who loaned me the use of their summer home in the woods to help me stay safe.”

COVID-19 created a very frustrating, unsettling and unknown feeling at first, says Vallillee, but also says it ignited new creative possibilities for himself as he turned his musical entertainment business into a weekly online show.

“I may be stressed underneath it all, but I’m mostly thankful for what I am experiencing because of COVID-19. I have become closer with my wife and son and have learned new skills. So, it’s not all bad,” he says.

‘Walk around in my shoes’

Fraser says a lot of the sanitation precautions people are currently taking don’t feel much different than what she already does. Regular handwashing and wiping things down, masks and safety have been a big part of her life anyway, she says.

“Keeping cleaners and sanitizers and such on hand and being aware of risks of infection has been an everyday part of my life - people just get to walk around in my shoes for a bit,” says Fraser.

Pike agrees, saying she was always big on hand sanitizer, but now it’s worse, noting she always has wet wipes and hand sanitizer on her and is almost always wearing a mask.

“I wash my hands when I come home from shopping, and I change my clothes. I am ever vigilant of my children, perhaps more than I used to be,” she says.

Vallillee, too, says his ninja skills for avoiding germs have only become much sharper since COVID-19.

“It was very interesting to watch non-CFers learn how to wash their hands much more frequently, something that every CFer is quite adept at doing since their diagnosis,” he says.

Tim Vallillee, an Annapolis Valley, N.S. resident living with Cystic Fibrosis says contracting COVID-19 would be a death sentence for him. He asks that people wash their hands frequently, wear clean masks daily, and think of others like him who are terrified of “this monster.” - SaltWire Network
Tim Vallillee, an Annapolis Valley, N.S. resident living with Cystic Fibrosis says contracting COVID-19 would be a death sentence for him. He asks that people wash their hands frequently, wear clean masks daily, and think of others like him who are terrified of “this monster.” - SaltWire Network

More to be done

Overall, Vallillee is happy that most Nova Scotians are heeding the recommendations that have obviously worked in the past six months to keep numbers low.

Fraser, says there is still more, however, that could be done.

“I feel like the Island has the right idea with what to do for infection control for COVID-19, but they just can’t get it into effect fast enough and everyone on the same page or new information passed on in a timely manner,” she says.

It’s people’s ignorance of infection control - or even the dragging of feet when it comes to wearing a mask - that is putting everyone else at risk, she says, adding she feels it’s a selfish attitude.

“This only look out for me idea needs to go,” says Fraser. “They say ‘be kind’, but I say use your common sense and have some basic respect for those around you.”

Pike agrees, wishing people were more vigilant.

“I wish people would wear their masks properly, be more kind to one another, stop with all the hate and the judgement,” she says.

Having the ‘it can’t happen to me’ mentality is a horrible mindset to have, says Pike. COVID-19 can happen to anyone, no matter how careful you are being. It’s not going to just go away. It’s here just like smallpox or TB was until a cure was found, she says.

Fraser just wishes that people would understand that COVID-19 is not a joke, nor is it a conspiracy theory or the government trying to control us.

“It’s real and people are dying from it and those that recover have lasting effects that they may have for the rest of their lives,” she says.

“People are scared and have every right to be, especially people like me with the ‘it’s only the old sick and vulnerable that die’ mentality going around. I’m treated as though I’m a healthy human being because my illnesses are invisible, and it’s brushed off because I’m young.”

She wishes people would think of others.

“If only people really knew the turmoil that could be caused from someone like me catching COVID-19, not to mention the anguish my family would have to endure,” says Fraser. “Just because we are lucky now doesn’t mean our luck won’t run out.”

Vallillee, too, hopes that people will not become complaisant just because the numbers are low.

“I pray the borders stay closed as long as possible or I fear I will have to seek refuge again as the numbers will definitely climb. I’m fearful that COVID-19 will appear in the schools, which would cause me to also escape and remain secluded from my own family as I hide in the woods again,” he says.

“I simply ask that people reading this to please wash your hands frequently and wear your clean masks daily and think of others like me who are terrified of this monster. Please help keep me and those like me safe.”

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