Ayla and Britton Hutchinson pass the time in isolation by making Playdough creations. With Britton’s compromised immune system, mother Teri Hutchinson says the family has been staying home at all costs to avoid contracting COVID-19. (Contributed)

Immunocompromised, at risk Shuswap residents keeping their distance

Family of young heart transplant recipient, asthma sufferer share how they’re coping

Social distancing is not a new concept for the Hutchinson family.

Teri Hutchinson explained she and husband Colin became familiar with it following the birth of their second daughter, Britton, in May 2015.

Britton was born with a rare congenital heart defect that immediately put her in line for a heart transplant. Britton received a successful transplant on Sept. 3, 2015. She is now five, happy, healthy and looking forward to kindergarten. In the meantime, because of Britton’s compromised immune system, and her heightened risk of contracting COVID-19, the Hutchinson family have been keeping to their Sicamous home, taking all precautions necessary to avoid exposure to the virus.

“For the past couple weeks we have been staying home at all costs and social distancing,” Teri explained by email. “It’s the safest and easiest way to prevent the highly contagious virus.

“Like many, we are already feeling the effects of these mandatory life changes and really try to stay as positive as possible until ‘normal’ life can resume again.”

Teri explained her family is used to social distancing when needed to keep the flu or other potential harmful ailments at bay.

Read More: Baby Britton makes billboard debut for David Foster Foundation

Read More: Special honour for young heart transplant recipient

Read More: Do you think you have COVID-19? Here is what to do next

“In general, life is normal and going to the grocery store, for example, is not typically a great danger – whereas during these times it very much is a risk,” said Teri. “We all wash hands frequently in everyday life and consciously avoid high-risk situations.”

Under more normal circumstances, Teri said when Britton does get sick, it’s typically for a longer duration than what is experienced by an average person in good health, as it’s more challenging for her body to fight it off because of the medications she requires.

“We are grateful for our health, especially Britton’s,” said Teri. “We just returned from our semi-annual appointments in Edmonton with our transplant team last month and they are thrilled with Britton’s milestones and health.”

Keen to avoid exposure to COVID-19, Peggy Maerz is also self-isolating, but at her gym.

The owner and head coach of Bulldogs Boxing Fitness and Boxing Centre has had the gym to herself since Thursday, April 2, when Interior Health ordered all personal fitness training facilities closed. But Maerz said she moved into the gym from her home two weeks prior because her wife is a nurse and Maerz suffers from asthma and has a congenital lung defect, putting her at high risk.

“Although I’m a very healthy person, it would be a very distressing time and likely I would need ventilation,” said Maerz.

Maerz began transitioning to online instruction with her students before the mandatory gym closure. In addition to providing an income, she said it also keeps her busy doing what she enjoys with others who may be in similar situations due to the virus.

“For me to be able to do this, I feel like I’m affecting people’s situation in a positive way while their routines are upside down and their lives are upside down,” said Maerz. “It definitely makes me feel like I still have a purpose and I’m still meeting my purpose.”

The downsides of self-isolation? Maerz said she’s become the Morgan Freeman of the gym with an ongoing voice-over, and she misses her wife.

“It doesn’t feel great not to be at home,” said Maerz. “I really don’t like not being able to give my wife a hug or sit beside her on the couch. I’m not liking that, but I also know that this is temporary and I’m going to focus on this new thing.”

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