Regina couple with cystic fibrosis ‘frustrated’ with province’s handling of COVID-19 pandemic

Click to play video: 'Regina couple with cystic fibrosis frustrated with province’s handling of COVID-19 pandemic'
Regina couple with cystic fibrosis frustrated with province’s handling of COVID-19 pandemic
As some have been able to regain a sense of normalcy with the availability of vaccines during this pandemic, one Regina couple still has to remain on high alert due to their precarious health situation. Taz Dhaliwal has more on the ongoing COVID battle an immunocompromised husband and immunosuppressed wife continue to face – Oct 31, 2021

Cassandra and Dillon Bumpus have been in isolation since March 2020 due to their life-long and incurable diagnosis of cystic fibrosis, and they say the ongoing pandemic is taking a significant toll on their lives.

Cassandra had a double lung transplant surgery in November 2016 at a hospital in Edmonton.

The operation was her only shot for survival after the disease had deteriorated her lungs and now she is considered to be immunosuppressed.

Cassandra Bumpus in hospital due to double-lung transplant surgery. Cassandra Bumpus

“Part of the drug regiment is a couple of different immunosuppression drugs. Basically, they just really suppress your immune system,” Cassandra said.

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“Something like a common cold could be really detrimental and could have a lot of negative effects and could be enough that you end up in hospital.”

Cassandra said her delicate state of health made her much more cautious and more cognizant of the need to practise proper hand hygiene even before the pandemic, along with keeping her distance from family members if they’re sick.

It’s a fact of life when you have a genetic lung condition, she said. “I’ve been … living that way my whole life with cystic fibrosis.”

Cassandra said that with the transplant surgery, the added immunosuppression drugs, and the continuing pandemic, her state of high alert for potential viruses and bacteria has only been heightened.

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Her husband Dillion also is immunocompromised. Considering the high number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and ICU admissions that Saskatchewan is still experiencing, she said they both remain extra vigilant, despite being double-vaccinated.

“So it does feel … a little bit like we are being held hostage in our home by people who are unvaccinated and Premier (Scott) Moe, whose inaction is quite frustrating — and that’s putting it, I would say, nicely.”

When it comes to staying safe, Cassandra said the doctors who performed the transplant surgery advised her to act as if she is not vaccinated in order to be even more cautious and protect herself against COVID-19 and its evolving strains.

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Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan Premier Moe says it’s not ‘fair’ to impose more COVID-19 restrictions with high vaccination uptake'
Saskatchewan Premier Moe says it’s not ‘fair’ to impose more COVID-19 restrictions with high vaccination uptake

Like health experts in the province, Dillon and Cassandra said they advocate for more restrictions, such as a limit on gathering sizes and expanding the mask and proof of vaccination policy.

They said this would help alleviate the tremendous beating on their mental health.

“It’s been severely impacted or deteriorated. For myself, it’s almost entirely, if not entirely, due to the precautions we have to take and the isolation we’re living in,” Dillon said.

Dillon said wait times to see mental health experts and other specialists for their cystic fibrosis continue to be prolonged because of the pandemic. That, in turn, adds to their cycle of angst, Cassandra said.

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“I have spent a lot of time of my life in the hospital and so I have come to have a great respect for nurses and doctors and other health care professionals and the work that they do.”

“Now I’m at the age where I have friends who are nurses and it’s very, very disheartening to see the way that (they), and really all health care workers, are being treated in this province by the government,” Cassandra added.

“Any time I talk to friends who are in health care, it’s just very hard to hear what they are going through, and it feels a little bit hopeless,” she said. “I don’t know what to do to sort of help them because I feel like the premier isn’t listening.”

In addition to living with cystic fibrosis, Cassandra said she’s been having digestive issues that she hasn’t been able to resolve over the past year and a half.

Cystic fibrosis affects not just the lungs, but many other things, and one of those is the digestive system, she explained.

“Over the course of the transplant, I’ve been having digestive issues that have caused quite a bit of problems. I’ve lost about 30 pounds over the course of the pandemic, and it’s just been frustrating to try to deal with it from home with talking to doctors over the phone and having virtual appointments,” Cassandra said.

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She said she fears having to go to the hospital or ending up in the emergency department during the pandemic. That causes her to feel more stressed out, she said.

On top of that, she said she’s anxious about having to gain back all of the weight she has lost in order to get healthier. She said she constantly wonders how she will do it when she feels stuck in despair.

Obstacles like these are causing her and her husband to lose a lot of sleep and peace of mind.

“It’s just impacted my daily energy level and stuff like that and then, of course, my husband worries about me and my family worries about me,” Cassandra said.

“I find that the pandemic has just exacerbated some of the issues that I think we already have in the province in terms of health care and accessibility to health care.”

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