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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

This is not a drill

BY Maïtée Labrecque-Saganash Mar 27, 2020

I was born May 22, 1995. I can’t tell you how was the weather that day, but apparently I looked funny for a couple hours. I was a healthy baby for a few weeks until I started regularly getting sick. I had ear infections non-stop and blood would drip down my ears. I was sometimes coughing up blood, sinus infections were common, and I spent my first five years in and out of hospital. I remember I caught whooping cough once and almost died.

It was not fun. In fact, as an infant I was in respiratory arrest more than once. At only three or four years old I asked my mom if I would die.

After years of trying to find a proper diagnosis and putting me through every test you can imagine, a short Russian doctor (my mom said his accent was neat) in the basement of the CHUQ Hospital in Quebec City finally found what it was. I had a missing link in my immune system, something very similar to hypogammaglobulinemia. That condition made me prone to infections in my respiratory system.

I remember how much I was in pain all the time and how my mom would always tell me: “If I could take all of your pain, I would.”

Whenever I see a new virus like COVID-19 going around, I get a nervous knowing that my immune system kind of sucks and that if I do catch it, I would definitely struggle to overcome it.

What we know about COVID-19 is that it’s dangerous to Elders and folks like me who are immunocompromised. Many people do not listen when healthcare providers give simple directions such as: “Stay at home!” There’s a lot of people going around saying that it’s just like the common flu and there is nothing to worry about.

That’s not totally false. People in good health will probably experience mild symptoms. But you know what else? The world does not revolve around you.

In our close-knit communities, we have Elders, overcrowded houses and many community members with pre-existing conditions. The last thing we want are clusters of infections in our remote communities. When our leadership and public-health authorities give instructions, the responsible thing to do is listen.

By binge-watching shows on Netflix or by crafting all day away from public spaces, you are saving lives, mine included. Our actions today are crucial and will determine what is going to happen in the next few weeks. Don’t be selfish. Be responsible and stay at home as much as possible.

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Maïtée Labrecque-Saganash is Cree from Waswanipi, and is the Nation’s newest columnist. She is an activist and writer who also has a regular column in Montreal’s French Metro Newspaper.