COVID-19 and immunosuppressed patients

Submitted by McGill University
October 30, 2020

I remember, March 20th 2020, they announced the first case of COVID-19 in the medical staff on our transplant unit. It was also one of the first confirmed cases in Quebec so it was quite a big deal. Working with immunosuppressed patients, when we learned the news, we were a bit panicked since we really didn’t want an outbreak on our unit considering our patients are part of the population at risk. That day, we isolated all the patients that had been in contact with the infected person for 14 days in their room. No visits were allowed, which I remember was devastating for many patients. Recovering from a transplant is never easy and support from close ones is essential for the recovery process, so you can only imagine how hard it was for some patients. The help, the guidance and the support from the nurses was then so much more essential in order to help the patients have a safe and smooth recovery. Another struggle we encountered was the fact that patients couldn’t go out of their rooms to walk or to do physiotherapy. We all know that exercise is a big factor in recovery, and physical therapists had to find new ways the patients could do exercises, while staying in their room.

In April, we had our first suspected cases. I remember it was quite scary having to put our PPE in order to enter the room, and it also made the patients feel like they were a danger to others. Some patients even told me that it was really hard for them mentally because nurses would come less often in their room because of the PPE protocols, which made them feel lonelier.

In May, many nurses form our staff was sent at another hospital to take care of COVID positive patients. It was heartbreaking for many, because they did not have the choice to refuse.

In June, another member of the staff tested positive for COVID-19. They had to put all the people that were in contact with her in isolation, creating a lot of TSO since there were nurses missing.

In July, we started getting transplant patients that had survived COVID-19. The recovery process for them was really long since they had been in the ICU for many weeks. We were stilled impressed, but so happy that these patients survived.

Since then, many policies are in place, regarding COVID testing for all patients, PPE, visits, etc. We did not have an outbreak on our unit, nor in our staff, which we are so grateful for. The battle against the virus is not finished, and we can only expect ups and downs til then. For our patients, I believe it is essential than we demonstrate a therapeutic presence and that we provide a safe place for them to heal.