Coronavirus: The New Life of the Immunocompromised

For almost three months, Brian has lived like a hermit. He leaves his apartment in Plateau Mont-Royal as little as possible. He is afraid of contracting COVID-19. “I have zero contact with just about anyone,” he says. This 57-year-old Montrealer is living with HIV-AIDS. “I am vulnerable to COVID-19. It worries me. “

Brian has been HIV positive since 2003 – he prefers to hide his name since people around him ignore his illness. The pandemic has transformed her life. “Before, I was someone who went out in the morning and returned in the evening after supper,” he said. He is now cloistered at home and teleworking. “I get delivered [l’épicerie] as much as possible, he says. I see my friends through Facetime. “

In addition to being HIV positive, Brian has comorbidities. Her kidneys are half functioning as a result of taking HIV / AIDS medication in the past. “I have had allergic asthma since I had a cat,” he adds. In April, he resigned himself to giving his companion up for adoption. “I live alone,” he says. He was my only presence. “

COVID-19 scares many people with weakened immune systems. And for good reason. Immunocompromised people are more at risk of complications from respiratory infections. “At the start of the pandemic, it was thought that all immunocompromised people were at risk [de COVID-19]says the Dr Donald Vinh, microbiologist at the McGill University Health Center and clinical researcher. We now discover that not. “

Pregnant women, people with rheumatoid arthritis or celiac disease do not seem to be at higher risk of being infected with COVID-19 and of having a severe form of the disease, says Dr Donald Vinh.

As for people with HIV, too little data is still available, according to Dr Réjean Thomas, medical director of the L’Actuel clinic in Montreal. “But at the moment, according to hospital clinicians in Western countries, there does not seem to be a greater impairment of COVID-19 in people with HIV-AIDS on triple therapy,” he said. This treatment protects their immune system. “

An international study, published a week ago in the scientific journal The Lancet, however, shows that people with active organ-related cancer are at high risk of getting COVID-19 and developing severe symptoms. “Certainly older patients are affected more severely than younger ones,” says Dr.r Donald Vinh, who contributed to this study.

People who have received or are about to receive a bone marrow transplant are also among the most vulnerable, according to Dr Donald Vinh.

Telecommuting recommended

While waiting for more data, the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec advocates the precautionary principle. He recommends that immunocompromised health care workers be reassigned to avoid contact with positive, probable or suspected COVID-19 cases. He recommends telework for 11 categories of immunocompromised workers, such as those with an autoimmune disease and receiving immunosuppressive therapy.

This is the case of Paulina Campos, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis. The 42-year-old administrative technician works from home. “My doctor even signed me a work stoppage ticket if I am no longer able to continue [en ce sens] “, She specifies.

COVID-19 is anxiety. “If I catch it, will I be hospitalized? Will my partner and I be sick? Who will take care of our little boy? She wonders.

To avoid contamination, the whole family stays at home. Her husband works remotely. “Even if we say that we deconfine, we do not confine,” says Paulina Campos. We don’t barbecue. My son does not go to play modules in the park. Rather, he has fun in the sand, plays soccer, and enjoys collecting rocks.

But Paulina Campos knows that sooner or later her son will have to return to daycare. “If I don’t take it on the 1ster September, he will lose his place, ”she said. She will find herself in great trouble, she notes, if a vaccine is only produced in early 2021. She will then return to work.

Heïdi Deschênes, she is tired of this pandemic. The 37-year-old woman, mother of two, has stage 3 breast cancer. Since December 23, she has undergone 16 chemotherapy treatments and the removal of both breasts. She carries mutations in the BRCA2 gene, an important risk factor for breast cancer.

“At the start of the pandemic, everything that came into the house had to be disinfected: the groceries, the packages,” said Heïdi Deschênes, who lives in Magog. I couldn’t go anywhere. “

Since the deconfinement, she does some shopping with a mask. Her children, ages three and five, stay at home. Her older son, who could have returned to kindergarten in May, misses her friends and her teacher, she said.

If it was only that. Heïdi Deschênes also had to go alone to chemotherapy treatments and to his surgery, a pivotal moment in his life as a woman. Accompanying persons are prohibited in hospitals during the pandemic. “It’s like a nightmare,” she says.

Despite everything, Heïdi Deschênes sees better days. The prognosis is “good,” she says.

Brian does not know how long he will remain confined. He had a serologic test for COVID-19 after having symptoms similar to the disease. Result: negative. “If it had been positive, it might have given me peace of mind …”

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