A few weeks ago I was interviewed related to the issue of Manitoba schools opening up in a limited format. The story focussed on kids with underlying health issues and the challenges they face in attending school in the era of COVID.
I was interviewed because my son Russell is immune-compromised due to the medications he takes to prevent organ rejection.
In spite of limited school openings, Russell never went to school in June. His only in-person interaction with his school was his drive-thru farewell - as he will be moving to middle years school next year.
My wife and I have a lot of thinking to do about what we will do before school begins in the fall. Seeing what isolation has done to our kids reinforces the need for them to get out - be social - and be with their friends. As much as we have attempted to keep things as normal as possible, we can see the effect of long stretches of isolation.
Our doctors have strongly recommended to wait and see - as there is very little information available on children who are immune-suppressed and how they cope with COVID. We have obviously learned a lot about COVID in the past few months and the hope is that we will know more in the coming months.
That still leaves us in a tough predicament as there is no clear cut - right answer. We've lived with the risks of immune-suppression for many years and this is just another complication in our decision-making process. I still recall our doctors' advice on how to care for our son. They gave us a lot of information about what things to avoid and activities that were high risk. They also stated in clear terms that you also have to have a life. What is the point of having a life-saving transplant if you don't have a life? Managing the risks involves being pragmatic but not paranoid. That is a lot easier said than done.
COVID has just re-ignited a debate that has been ongoing for years. The frustrations of people who don't vaccinate. Parents who send sick kids to daycare and to school. This has forced us to re-visit all of the risks we face - not just COVID.
I hope that if there is one thing we learn through the whole pandemic experience is how we can prevent the transmission of many viruses - not just COVID. There is a huge opportunity to promote the uptake of the flu vaccine - to make sure everyone is up to date on their vaccinations. What is the point of bending the curve on COVID just to have a measles outbreak?
We should be learning boatloads from this pandemic. The importance of vaccines, hand hygiene, not going to work sick, the transmission of disease in confined spaces - the list goes on and on. In spite of many of these lessons we also realize that we will always live with some risk - we need to start the conversation about what level of risk is acceptable. That discussion is well underway in our household. A conversation that has been going on for 12 years and won't end anytime soon.
If our kids go back to school in the fall - it will be a calculated risk - but it is a risk we have been living with for many years. This is nothing new.