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Covid-19 from the eyes of a heart transplant patient

Johnny Bugeja

Louis Casciaro writes about his experience with Covid-19. He has previously had a heart transplant and shared his story to mark Heart Month this February.

Covid the dreaded word. A year is nearly upon us since the start of this pandemic, and slowly but surely there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel. With the arrival of the Pfizer vaccine and the AstraZeneca vaccine, most of the population will eventually have some form of immunity from this disease.

As a heart transplant patient on continuous immune suppressants the last twelve months have been full of uncertainty and caution.

Covid has preyed on people with underlying issues mainly those with cardiac or cancer related ones, exposing their vulnerabilities with devastating effects.

As an immunosuppressed individual with a solid organ transplant, life is usually not as straightforward especially in these uncertain times.

This last year, we have had several lockdowns, various scares and swabbing. I have been fortunate enough that I have been kept abreast with very relevant information pertaining to transplant recipients both from the NHS and Royal Papworth.

As many of you will know solid organ recipients have been classified as extremely vulnerable especially as once infected there is very little response if any from our immune system.

We have had to change our perception as to the way we live and interact socially with our family, friends and others. It has been particularly hard both mentally and physically as part of the continuous rehabilitation therapy involves both mental and physical welfare.

We have had to adapt to a different lifestyle, one which is different to what we have lived before, maybe comparable with the closed frontier era but with the threat of being infected by Covid 19, and with social distancing and other measures in place.

It has been a difficult year one which has brought about life changing challenges. I personally have restricted myself to follow the advice given to cardiac patients and followed the simple rules of avoiding large crowds, social distancing, frequent hand washing etc. I have managed to also maintain a physical routine and have kept myself busy by frequently going out for long walks as this is a great mental and physical provider.

As Vice Chairman of the Gibraltar Cardiac Association I am particularly aware of our members, most of which have underlying cardiac issues and who require continuous treatment and support. Because the rate of infection and hospital attendances has increased threefold this support has obviously suffered in its delivery due to the exigencies of Covid.

With this in mind I would urge everyone to air on the side of caution, follow Public Health advice and above all do not live in fear, but in hope, one that will undoubtedly lead us back to some form of normality in the very near future. Keep safe and stay well.

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