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Coronavirus means increased vigilance for immunocompromised Manitobans

Heart transplant recipient Kristin Millar.
Heart transplant recipient Kristin Millar. Global News / File

The coronavirus crisis affects all of us, but some Manitobans are feeling the stress a little more than the rest.

As the virus continues to spread, people who are immunocompromised due to age or various health conditions are at greater risk.

A young Winnipeg woman who received a life-saving heart transplant eight years ago told 680 CJOB she’s being more vigilant in light of the pandemic, but she’s not going to be afraid.

“There’s a difference between being aware and being careful, but certainly never being afraid,” said Kristin Millar.

“Certainly now my awareness has increased quite a bit… but you’re not going to do good things to your mental health or your physical health if you’re constantly terrified.”

Millar said the messaging that surrounds public safety around COVID-19 often overlooks people in her situation.

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“The messaging around it tends to be, ‘You’re going to be OK… Don’t worry, as long as you’re not elderly or immunocompromised,” she said.

“Oftentimes, the conversation kind of ends at that point, and that can leave people like me feeling that our lives may not be as significant or as important as other people’s.”

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), most of those who have died of the virus so far had “underlying health conditions,” such as hypertension, diabetes or cardiovascular diseases, which weakened their immune systems.

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A WHO study shows about a 10 per cent mortality rate for COVID-19 patients with heart disease and about seven per cent for those with diabetes.

Despite the increased health risks, Millar said she’s fortunate to have the support system she does, and that there are others who are even more negatively affected by the crisis.

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READ MORE: ‘I almost died’ — Manitobans passionate about presumed consent for organ donation

“I think that it’s really important for me to note just how privileged I am in being able to stay home. My workplace is extraordinarily understanding and compassionate,” she said.

“I’ve got family and friends who are the most supportive people you can imagine. I don’t have extraordinary financial burdens where staying home is not possible.

“While it’s important to hear about people like me, I often think about other people who are much more vulnerable and who are making incredibly difficult decisions with relationships, with kids, with finances.”

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