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COVID-19 and virtual health in post-transplant care: Part 3 with Stefanie

Not only is Stefanie a transplant recipient (almost 30 years strong!), she’s also a pediatric ICU nurse in Victoria, 22 weeks pregnant and living her “new normal” in this pandemic.
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​“It's a difficult time for many of us but I am so blessed to know that I'm bringing my daughter into the world during a time when we all banded together to help keep each other safe.”

Stefanie’s unexpected “new normal” with health appointments

Before COVID-19, Stefanie expected to have “normal” health visits including in-person blood pressure checks and being able to talk face-to-face with her multi-disciplinary team. She was looking forward to better expressing her questions and concerns with her team, in the same room. As a first time mom with pre-existing health conditions, the challenges she anticipated were nerve-wracking.

While she feels that virtual health options might be best suited for general health questions and things such as prescription renewal, she feels confident in her health care team and trusts their guidance in navigating an extraordinary situation.

“I am very grateful to have such an involved health care team who offers virtual health appointments during this time when we should be social distancing. They understand my health concerns, and push for some appointments to happen via video chat or in person as needed. Overall, I have had great care and have had easy access to my health care team when needed.”

Transplant teams in BC expect that virtual health will play a greater role in post-transplant care even after the COVID-19 pandemic. With close to 90% of appointments during the pandemic taking place virtually, transplant programs are evaluating the best circumstances for this type of care on an ongoing basis.

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Adapting to drastic changes in her home and work life

At a time where Stefanie and her husband should be excitedly planning and celebrating their pregnancy with friends, they’ve been busy with online shopping and Zoom chats instead. Stefanie and her husband live alone on the island while the rest of their family lives in Alberta. COVID-19 has been tough on the couple, with travel plans now on permanent hold due to travel restrictions. 

Visits with doctors have changed to over the phone and seeing her baby for the first time alone, was less than ideal. (Stefanie’s husband has been unable to accompany her due to the restrictions related to COVID.) Although she wishes her husband was with her every step of the way, she praises her incredible health team who is supportive and doing all they can to make this a positive experience.

As a pediatric ICU nurse, Stefanie’s work life has changed drastically with new protocols and ever-changing information. Work wise, she’s expected to wear a mask at all times, a hat to cover her hair and hospital scrubs in case her set of skills is needed in the emergency department.

“A lot of learning has come from this and we are always trying our best to accommodate families and our patients during this difficult time. It's not the type of care I am used to giving due to limited visitors, strict protocols, and ever-changing information, but thankfully most people are understanding of our new "normal". Our strong team and leadership have offered nothing but support to us and our patients during this time.”
Keeping mental health at the forefront

Mentally, Stefanie has consciously cut down on her social media consumption and replaced that time with video-calling her friends and family. This practice has helped her to branch off to connect with many people who live further away. Although it’s not the same as being able to plan visits and trips, she says it’s nice to see their faces with a click of a button. She’s also had to stop a few of her physical health activities such as spin classes. Luckily for her, they live in a beautiful spot with access to exploring the island and finding new trails around her home.

“The amount of support and love I have received from my family, friends, colleagues and communities in Incredible. Several times at work, we would be able to hear the clanking and clapping of our community cheering us on and thanking us for our care. Many other essential workers such as firefighters, postal service, police officers and many more have done drive by parades at the hospital to show their support and love for the people in the hospital. It's amazing to watch the faces of patients light up as a bagpipe band plays outside or fire trucks and others drive by honking their horns and working their sirens. These gestures mean so much and have brought tears of gratitude to all of us.”

BC Transplant
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