Being a HIGH RISK person in the current health climate.

Where to begin. Being considered high risk, brings with it an extra level of detail to all decision making in this time we find ourselves. Our decision making affects our small family unit of four enormously. And the decision making of us all as a collective, affects the wider community, the elderly, other immunocompromised people and people with certain comorbid and chronic illnesses.

Below is some of the decision making that we, as a family have come up against to date since the beginning of the pandemic: 

  • Do we completely isolate ourselves

  • Do the kids and I isolate from my husband / their father, whose work is considered essential and still very much active in the community as a result

  • Do we continue to have home help (cleaners, childcare etc) come in despite the risk of exposure, which are the supports we have in place to limit the physical toll on my body

  • Without such supports how do we preserve my function

  • What is our decontamination process at the end of each day, if we don’t isolate from my husband / the kids father

Around mid March when the situation in Bondi was looking like it could very easily / would blow up - my husband and I made the decision for the kids and I to travel to my parents house, indefinitely. At the time, this felt a huge decision, warlike almost. We didn’t know at this point that Australia would ride out the first wave of Coronavirus relatively unscathed (who knows what the impact of the second wave will be, should there be one).

We stayed on the south coast of NSW with my parents for 4 weeks. Watching the devastation that was unfolding around the world and closely monitoring the situation in South Eastern Sydney.

It wasn’t easy being away, but nor was the prospect of returning home and losing the support I had in my parents. But we did decide ultimately the best thing to do was return home. Weighing up all the pros and cons, we decided for the emotional health of our children being together was going to provide the reassurance they needed. The tipping point to this decision being, when our four year old said to me one day after I explained again why we were not able to go home, 'But Daddy will get sick in Sydney' that being together and him seeing that Daddy was in fact well and safe was vital. Despite trying to shield them from too much 'virus' talk, he was acutely aware of more than I had realised. 

The decision to be home in Sydney comes with risk. I have consulted my neurosurgeon, the biggest risk for me is, if I were to contract severe COVID-19, due to my upper cervical spine instability and brainstem compression, if intubation were necessary (hopefully unlikely) I should be handled as a special case, but unfortunately it isn't a given that this would be done in the event of covid-19.

Intubation for someone with my spinal issues would normally include the use of fibre optic tubing. My neurosurgeon spoke with a team of doctors doing these procedures in Sydney on COVID-19 patients. They advised him in such a situation, these special precautions would not be undertaken. They would do their best to persevere my neck and brainstem, but they would quite possibly not do anything different to what would be done for someone without my instability. 

So, while the risk is small, (it is quite possible I would be more likely to contract more severe COVID-19 than a healthy 35 year old with none of my comorbid conditions) the prospect of not being handled as carefully as I should be, should intubation become necessary, is a very scary one.

I hope this gives a little insight into the complexity of the decision making processes that immunocompromised and high risk people within our communities are going through in this time of extreme uncertainty. Many people in this population are not able to undertake the simplest of tasks like going to the shops for essentials, instead relying entirely on friends, families and support workers to deliver everything they require.

This means it is paramount that those within the community are doing all the right things. Wash them hands (regularly and thoroughly), use sanitiser if soap and water is not available / stay home with even the slightest of symptoms and get tested should you have any symptoms that even remotely resemble COVID-19. 

And finally, download the Australian Government, Department of Health, COVID tracker app - COVIDSafe.  We need 10 million people to do so for it to be effective, last time I looked we had only just reached 5 million downloads.

So, until next time. 

Janna ZB x

**Please feel free to fire away below with any comments or questions. 

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