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Yes, many COVID-19 patients have underlying conditions. But that shouldn’t be the focus: Dr. Roussin

Click to play video 'Yes, many COVID-19 patients have underlying conditions. But that shouldn’t be the focus: Dr. Roussin' Yes, many COVID-19 patients have underlying conditions. But that shouldn’t be the focus: Dr. Roussin
It's often the first question asked in response to a COVID-19-related death: were there underlying medical conditions? But as Manitoba's chief public health officer asserts, that shouldn't minimize the impact the virus had. Global's Amber McGuckin has this story – Nov 24, 2020

As a mother of three, Hailey Coleman, has a lot to live for.

The 33-year-old Winnipeg woman lives with asthma and has been anxiously watching COVID-19 numbers rising in Manitoba. 

Read more: Man in his 20s Manitoba’s youngest coronavirus victim, 9 new deaths, 438 new cases Friday

“Since March we’ve pretty much been in isolation. I saw a couple family members and friends this summer very briefly but as they started progressing with the virus I literally do nothing. I work from home, I take my kids to and from school, and that’s literally all I do,” she said.

In Manitoba, 292 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 with 47 people in intensive care.

Data from the province shows that most people hospitalized have at least one underlying medical condition — around 70 per cent have hypertension, 40 per cent have diabetes, and more than 30 per cent have a lung condition such as asthma.

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“I’m 33, and a young mother of three and if something did happen to me I don’t know what the outcome will be because of asthma,” she said.

Hailey Coleman with her three kids. Supplied

Dr. Brent Roussin, chief public health officer, says people need to stop focusing on the underlying health conditions of a COVID-19 death in the province.

“If you look around in Manitoba and consider just how many people are walking around with some sort of underlying medical condition whether that be hypertension, asthma, COPD, other cardiac conditions that are doing just fine. Their life is going just well. They acquire COVID and are at an increased risk of a severe outcome and there was no reason to think that a death caused by COVID in those situations is somehow minimized,” he said.

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According to Diabetes Canada, about 395,000 Manitobans live with diabetes or prediabetes.

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The Lung Association of Manitoba’s president and CEO Neil Johnston says a fifth of people in the province have a lung condition. When one of those people dies from COVID-19, we shouldn’t accept that it was inevitable due to an underlying condition.

“These are people, as others have said, who would have lived longer lives, more full lives, we know children may have asthma or a pre-existing condition and have their whole life ahead of them. So the fact that COVID comes and steals that, doesn’t diminish the fact that that life is gone and that part of our family and community are gone,” he said.

“Ten per cent of the adult population has asthma, a larger percentage of pediatric or child population has asthma, just to name two. Then there’s all the others.”

Coleman says her asthma has landed her in the hospital, but normally, it’s something she manages.

“I’ve had asthma since I was a baby and it’s livable, it’s 100 per cent liveable and the fact that I can’t go out in public and see people because of it is a lot to handle mentally and the fact that there’s a lot of community members that don’t consider asthma to be that detrimental with this virus is upsetting.”

Read more: St. Boniface doc calls COVID-19 situation ‘the perfect storm you don’t want to be in’

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Coleman’s daughter ended up testing positive for COVID-19 this month.

Coleman believes her daughter contracted the virus at school but is grateful neither herself nor her two other children were positive.

“It instantly set off anxiety in our house you can feel the fear of how it affects asthma and trying to keep the rest of my kids safe while worrying about my own daughter, which was honestly a nightmare,” she said.

“We all got tested, we were all negative miraculously. I don’t know how because I cuddle her every night and as a mom you kind of, especially as a single mom, I’m with her 24/7 and I thought for sure I was going to contract COVID, I mentally prepared for it. It was a complete nightmare of how those with asthma get COVID and how scary it can be. I was trying to keep my composure.”

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