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Vancouver Island filmmaker shares pandemic life stories of the immunocompromised

Courtenay double heart-transplant survivor shows how COVID affects the medically vulnerable
Robbie Thompson, pictured at the Canadian Transplant Games, has made a documentary that considers how COVID is affecting medically vulnerable people. Photo supplied

When it comes to the question of vaccinating during the COVID pandemic, Robbie Thompson implores the public to consider those who are medically vulnerable.

Like him.

The 23-year-old Courtenay man has undergone two heart transplants, and is immunocompromised. He is also an athlete, a musician, and a digital media student at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo. For his senior project, Robbie created a film called Locked Down: a COVID-19 short documentary on the medically vulnerable.

While data may indicate the situation is slowly improving, Robbie continues to isolate as long as the coronavirus pandemic wears on. He can count on one hand the number of times he has set foot on the VIU campus this year. When he hears about people disregarding COVID safety protocols, it makes him feel forgotten and alone, even “less than human,” he says in the film.

“But it’s not just me,” he said in an interview. “There’s a whole world of medically vulnerable people out there that are in the same situation.”

The documentary contains interviews with several people who need to self-isolate, such as Margaret and Brian Benson. Margaret was born with cystic fibrosis, is diabetic and is a double transplant recipient. Her husband Brian is a two-time cancer survivor. Margaret says her life has been restricted because of healthy people who say it’s their right to refuse a vaccination or to wear a mask.

“I have no rights because I’m petrified to go to a movie theatre or hockey games,” said Margaret, who advises viewers to be careful with their health, and to not take it for granted.

Another interviewee is Robbie’s mother, Sue. Like Brian Benson, she is a two-time cancer survivor.

“Healthy people are always one step away from being medically vulnerable,” Sue says.

Robbie also chats with a friend named Julia, who has Apert syndrome, a genetic disorder characterized by skeletal abnormalities.

“Get your heads on straight, stop being ignorant, and look at those people who you are potentially putting at risk,” Julia says. “If it (vaccination) protects us, those of us who are immunocompromised, just do it.”

Robbie realizes certain people are not able to receive a full vaccine due to adverse reactions. He also respects religious beliefs that might hamper a person’s decision about receiving a vaccination.

“The ultimate message is, even if you can’t get the vaccine, or if you have any disagreements about it, just be a little more considerate, and be careful and mindful of the risks out there,” he said.

“Just keep us in mind, that’s all I ask.”

Robbie gives a shout out to musician Alannah Clark for contributing songs to the video.

RELATED: Two-time Courtenay heart transplant recipient urges COVID vaccine opponents to reconsider

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