SPECIAL CONNECTION: L-R – Suzie Nguyen, Thuy Nguyen, Tracey Slatter and Tham Lu. PICTURE: Contributed
SPECIAL CONNECTION: L-R – Suzie Nguyen, Thuy Nguyen, Tracey Slatter and Tham Lu. PICTURE: Contributed

FRAGILE: Vulnerable grandmother's battle to avoid COVID-19

IT'S A HARROWING time for double-lung transplant recipient Tracey Slatter.

Put simply, COVID-19 could kill the Gladstone grandmother so it is vital that she does not come in contact with anyone who is carrying the disease.

The disease ravages the lungs of infected people - meaning double-lung transplant recipient Mrs Slatter is dancing with death if she gets the virus.

Mrs Slatter had a terminal lung disease called idiopathic oulmonary fibrosis eight years ago.

With three months to live, the 52-year-old recieved her new lungs from 36-year-old Aileen Nguyen, who died suddenly in March of 2014.

COVID-19 is a real threat to Mrs Slatter's health so she has followed closely the spread of the disease over the past few months.

"Any virus of any kind concerns me very much and I could see what it was doing to the people of China and how quickly it was spreading," she said.

"I knew in the back of my mind it was going to be huge and I discussed this with my husband Greg and here we are now fighting a pandemic."

Tracey Slatter with grandchildren Max and Isaah Slatter. PICTURE: Contributed
Tracey Slatter with grandchildren Max and Isaah Slatter. PICTURE: Contributed

Mrs Slatter takes 14 different types of medications, but non specifically to prevent coronavirus.

"I take numerous medications - blood pressure, antiobiotics, anti-rejection, vitamins, magnesium, skin cancer prevention, medication for kidney disease and steroids," she said.

"I am required to take medications three times per day.

"My lung function is tested daily and any drop of lung function by 10 per cent must be reported to the transplant team in Brisbane for investigation."

Mrs Slatter has taken all measures against the potentially deadly virus including social distancing - she stays home apart from lonely daily walks.

"I avoid even my immediate family which is quite difficult for a family as close as ours," she said.

"I have made arrangements for all of my food and medications to be delivered as I don't wish to take any risks of contracting the virus in a chemist or shopping centre which is full of people."

Greg, Emily, Tracey and Michael Slatter. PICTURE: Contributed
Greg, Emily, Tracey and Michael Slatter. PICTURE: Contributed

Mrs Slatter - who administrates two health support groups - said she believed there were no virus-related deaths of organ transplant recipients in Australia.

"There is no specific information yet on whether COVID-19 will be more severe in transplant recipients compared to the general population," she said.

"however in saying that all viruses, not just the COVID-19, can cause severe complications in people who are immunocompromised, therefore transplant recipients should take extra precautions to avoid being exposed to COVID-19."

Aileen Nguyen's sister Tham Lu said she was deeply concerned about the virus' impact on Mrs Slatter, but knew the mum-of-two would be vigilant and careful.

"Our first reaction was literally "Oh s**t", knowing that Tracey was a double lung recipient," Mrs Lu said.

"We understand that these are strict measures but for good reason.

"It's a small sacrifice now but this just means that Tracey will continue to see her family and beautiful grandchildren grow up.

"My family are very proud of Aileen and we will continue to support organ donations. "Although Aileen is not with us today, it's comforting knowing that a piece of her continues to give life."

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