COVID diagnosis for child with cystic fibrosis presents new hurdle after rest of family recovers

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COVID diagnosis for child with cystic fibrosis presents new hurdle after rest of family recovers

The Bennetts have two boys, John and Noah. John, left, has cystic fibrosis. (Submitted by the Bennett family)

John Bennett and his family of four were already facing a difficult situation when he and his wife Gillian tested positive for COVID-19 last month.

Soon after, their youngest son contracted the virus as well, leaving only their eldest, 10 year-old John, virus-free.

Bennett took every precaution to quarantine his son John — who has cystic fibrosis — away from the family.

Now, in an unwelcome twist for the beleaguered family, Bennett, his wife and their youngest son Noah have all recovered from the virus — but John is sick.

Bennett said John was tested Feb. 27 after developing a cough, and the family anxiously awaited the results, which they received on Monday, showing that it was indeed COVID-19.   

Bennett and Gillian, as well as their youngest son Noah, have since recovered from their own bouts with the virus. It came as a surprise, said Bennett, that John didn’t get sick sooner.

“When the boys tested negative at that point, and this is a few weeks ago now — it feels like a decade at this point, given everything — but we were kind of surprised,” he said.

Even after Noah became sick, John’s tests still came back negative.

“We did our utmost best in the house to keep separated,” Bennett said.

“John was downstairs pretty much the entire time. If he needed food, or whatever he needed, we’ve kind of put it at a distance and he comes to get it.”

The family took every precaution they could think of, including wearing masks in the home, to limit the risk of spreading the virus to John, but Bennett said it was likely unavoidable.

“At the end of the day, we couldn’t seal off parts of the house,” he said. “It’s an airborne virus, or that’s how it can pass, so as much as we did to make sure that didn’t happen, ultimately, of course it did.”

The Bennett family before quarantining. (Submitted by the Bennett family)

Bennett and his family had likely contracted the new, more contagious B117 variant of the virus during the same outbreak which sent the province back into Alert Level 5 lockdown last month.

“We did our utmost best, considering the circumstances, to keep John away from it,” Bennett said. “But just given the new variant and how easy it can be transmitted from one person to the next, it felt inevitable.”

“It wasn’t the news we wanted.”

Bennett said he and his family will deal with it just like they dealt with the other cases in their house.

Family feels outcome was inevitable

As the parent of a child with cystic fibrosis, and as the president of the Newfoundland and Labrador chapter of Cystic Fibrosis Canada, Bennett, like many others across the country, has a vested interest in how the virus affects those with the lung condition.

From his vantage point, COVID is less worrying now than when details first began emerging last March.

“We’ve come to learn that because it’s a virus, and not a bacteria — and I won’t get too far into the weeds — but bacteria can affect those with CF a lot worse than a virus can,” said Bennett.

“So in this case, because it’s a virus, it doesn’t necessarily mean that because he’s got CF that it would affect him much worse.”

Bennett doesn’t want to downplay the risk, given that cystic fibrosis is experienced differently by everyone.

“But given what we’ve seen with CF, the virus has not had a consequential impact.,” he said.

In John’s case, Bennett said, his son keeps an active and healthy lifestyle which includes a thorough treatment regimen and regular contact with a specialized team at the Janeway Children’s Hospital in St. John’s.

Though John’s diagnosis came as a shock, and his CF treatment regimen will amp up as a precaution, Bennett said he’s doing well.

“Once the reality set in that he had it, I think there was a little bit of emotion there,” Bennett said.

“And it’s good to report that at this point, there’s been no difference in symptoms, or no other symptoms besides just the bit of the cough.”

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador



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