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COVID-19 and virtual health in post-transplant care: Part 2 with Larry

Larry is no stranger to following strict rules of health & safety being born with cystic fibrosis and receiving a new set of lungs 12 years ago.
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Larry with his transplant surgeon Dr. John Yee at the 2019 Operation Popcorn event

​As someone with an underlying health condition, he’s always been careful about infection protection and control, but added some extra precautions since the pandemic started. “I always wear a mask now when going into a building and am no longer self-conscious about it,” he says. “I avoid people on sidewalks to the point of crossing the road if I have to.”

Good general hygiene has always been top of mind for Larry, even before COVID-19. His best practices include coughing or sneezing into his elbow, washing hands frequently, opening doors with either a shoulder or elbow where possible, pushing elevator buttons with a knuckle or finger covered with a sleeve and never touching a balustrade or escalator handrail.

Virtual health appointments – a first for Larry

He has had two virtual health appointments (one with the Cystic Fibrosis Clinic and one with the post-transplant clinic) and while some aspects took some getting used to, they both worked well. He experienced some of the challenges of web conferencing calls that others have had during the pandemic:  “There were six people on one of my calls, so they could all chime in if they wanted to, and for my transplant appointment the position of the camera was a bit odd so I could only see my doctor’s shoulder.” Overall, he praised the controlled timing aspect of online appointments and personally enjoys video calls over phone.

The lung transplant team at Vancouver General Hospital notes that while the greatest challenge at this time may be technological barriers including inadequate infrastructure and literacy, it rarely interferes with overall care goals.

“Health care providers have been satisfied or very satisfied with virtual health visits over 90% of the time. Compared to usual care, the majority of patients reported that the virtual visit was as good as or better than in-person. Not surprisingly, patients reported substantial decreased costs as well as major time savings associated with virtual health visits.”
Staying safe at home

Working from home has given Larry the gift of time, since he doesn’t have to commute. “I now walk more than I ever have – typically about an hour every day so I’m probably healthier,” he jokes. “Being outside, especially in good weather, improves my mental health quite a bit.” He’s even jumped on the craze of baking bread and loves the extra time to cook.

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At home, Larry has a full house and a full heart. He’s been able to work remotely, albeit for fewer days than pre-pandemic, but health safety always comes first. He’s grateful to be quarantined with his family and is thankful to his wife who has been doing 90% of the grocery shopping. He’s been extra considerate with putting in good systems of physical distancing and isolation with family and close friends in the last few months in order to still enjoy life, at a distance – although he really misses big hugs! In particular, Larry appreciates he can still see his grandson Josh and his boxer puppy Lola for distanced walks every weekend.

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“I feel privileged to have had a transplant prior to going through the times of COVID-19. That may seem like an odd statement, but the almost-two years that I waited for transplant (as well as growing up with cystic fibrosis) was a good training ground. You find out who you are as a person, and what makes you tick. I spent a lot of time alone pre-transplant and used this time for reflection. I learned CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) methods to steady my mind. I learned how to meditate and “float” outside myself. I learned breathing techniques (not always easy when you’re dying of cystic fibrosis, but valuable for both the body and the mind). I guess what I am saying is that I have lived through all of that, and a little virus isn’t going to put me down now without a fight!”

Larry is also heavily involved in transplant research related projects nationally and here in BC, and feels fortunate to lend his voice and expertise. Being a part of regular Zoom meetings has kept him intellectually stimulated with his new group of people as a Patient Partner for the Canadian Donation and Transplantation Research Program.

BC Transplant
 
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