Three-year-old Hazel Durnace, seen here with mom Ashley Durance on Dec. 3, 2019, was born as a micro-preemie and has chronic lung disease. She is one of many people in Chilliwack who are most vulnerable to COVID-19. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress file)

COVID-19: Here are some of the faces of those most vulnerable in Chilliwack

Self-isolate for them: three-year-old with chronic lung disease, 105-year-old man, organ recipient

For more than a week we’ve been told repeatedly to self-isolate and, if you do venture outside your home, to practise social distancing.

But some people aren’t listening. People have been flocking to parks and trails, gathering in large groups, and letting their children play on playground equipment despite the red “danger” tape wrapped around it.

Self-isolating and social distancing is not just to prevent yourself from catching the novel coronavirus, but to help halt the spread of it to others – especially those most vulnerable.

But aside from senior citizens, who are those people?

They’re cancer patients. People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Smokers. Diabetics. Heart disease patients. The homeless.

These are the people with compromised immune systems and easily fall into the category of most vulnerable.

Here are three of the faces and voices of just some of the many people in Chilliwack who are asking you to self-isolate:

Three-year-old Hazel Durance

Hazel was born 17 weeks early in November, 2016 weighing less than a pound. She was a micro-preemie baby at a mere 420 grams. Hazel had complications from the moment she was born, the most severe of which was her underdeveloped lungs. She also had patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) in which a valve in her heart failed to close after birth, pulmonary hypertension, and a sick liver. She now lives with chronic lung disease.

Hazel has had dozens of appointments either postponed or cancelled altogether as a result of COVID-19.

She is still a regular patient at BC Children’s Hospital and was there last week for surgery. Typically both of Hazel’s parents, Ashley and Jeff, are allowed to be with her for surgery, but not this time.

“With the current and understandable policies in place, only one of us was allowed in. Hazel and I passed through secure checkpoints upon entering the hospital where I was asked a series of questions and had to justify why we were there,” mom Ashley Durance said.

Jeff waited in the car where he and Ashley did a video call so he could be “present” during Hazel’s surgery.

They will not take Hazel into elevators and Ashley has carried her up four flights of stairs (Hazel can’t walk up stairs yet) to get to a doctor’s office. She also carries gloves and hand sanitizer and will change Hazel’s clothes in the car.

At home, there’s a designated area unaccessible to Hazel by the front door where Ashley and Jeff sanitize their hands when they come home, disinfect their mobile phones, wallets and anything else that could have been exposed to droplets.

“We also remove our outer layers and when we come upstairs we wash our hands up to our elbows like we did in the NICU and we put our clothing in the wash,” Ashley said.

She said the past few weeks have been “overwhelming” and a “rollercoaster” of emotions.

“She is just three and doesn’t understand why she can’t see her aunties or grandparents or her cousins,” Ashley said.

READ MORE: Chilliwack mom gives back to Royal Columbian Hospital NICU with Christmas stocking drive

Cathleen Falebrinza

Double-lung recipient, Cathleen Falebrinza, had her transplant surgery when she was in her early 40s in November, 2016 after being diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis.

She is a member of the RCMP’s Upper Fraser Valley Regional Detachment Serious Crime Unit and is currently working from home. Both she and her husband decided to self-isolate about a week and a half ago.

“It is a little harder than I expected, but we make sure to get out into the sunshine, exercise and go for the occasional drive to get out,” Falebrinza said, adding that neighbours have also been very thoughtful as they’ve been picking up essential items for them.

She is still being closely monitored by doctors and staff with Vancouver General Hospital’s lung transplant program, but there have been some adaptions lately. For instance, this week she has a virtual appointment.

Like anyone else, she is concerned for the path this virus is taking. It’s constantly racing through her head and she’s forever thinking of her colleagues.

“The first responders and essential service providers are always on my mind. They are risking their life and their family’s lives to serve their communities.”

She’s asking everyone to turn to the advice of the Provincial Health Officer and the BC Centre for Disease Control, and self-isolate.

“Take their advice and direction,” Falebrinza said.

(To sign up to be an organ donor, go to transplant.bc.ca.)

Dr. Choon Law

Dr. Choon Law could easily represent your grandfather, or your great-grandfather, or depending on how old you are, your great-great-grandfather.

He just celebrated his 105th birthday on March 6, and he has no plans on leaving this earth any time soon.

“I feel good… I think I can see another birthday without trouble,” he said with a smile on March 14.

Law still lives in his own home and has 24-hour-care where his caregivers are taking extra precautions to keep Law healthy, especially now.

Everyone is being asked to self-isolate for very valid reasons. We are being asked to stay at home for those who cannot, like Law’s health care workers.

READ MORE: Chilliwack doctor turns 105, says key to longevity is food, sleep and luck

And for those still choosing to ignore the message to self-isolate and social distance themselves, Ashley Durance has a message:

“Think of the person you love the most. Now imagine how it would feel if that person were to end up in respiratory distress and on a ventilator. If they are infected with COVID-19 you must isolate yourself. You won’t be allowed to hold their hand or visit. Imagine that person all alone without you, their loved one, by their side… afraid and hurting and sick.”

“How does that make you feel?” Durance said. “This is the reality of it. Is that risk worth ignoring the social distancing rules?”

Self-isolate. Keep your distance. Do it for all the Hazels, Cathleens and Choons out there.


 

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on?
Email: jenna.hauck@theprogress.com
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Dr. Choon Law, 105, laughs as he talks with visitors in his home on March 14, 2020. He is one of many people in Chilliwack who are most vulnerable to COVID-19. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress file)

Double-lung recipients Cathleen Falebrinza (right) and Dr. Patricia Ackland (green shirt) thank nurses and doctors on Dec. 5, 2019 at Chilliwack General Hospital with a big box of popcorn during BC Transplant’s Operation Popcorn campaign. They are two of many people in Chilliwack who are most vulnerable to COVID-19. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress file)

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