Lying About Covid, Family Friend Infects 82-Year-Old Cancer Survivor With Terrible Outcome

Published Jan 4, 2022

Abigail Seaberg

Keeping Cancer Patients Safe

  • An 82-year-old grandmother who survived blood cancer died of COVID-19 after meeting up with a friend who withheld the information that she tested positive for the virus.
  • The COVID-19 vaccine could be less effective in patients with blood cancer. Even still, there are benefits to getting vaccinated and research has shown that some blood cancer patients have produced antibodies after a third dose of the vaccine, according to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
  • COVID-19 cases have spiked across the country due to the new omicron variant. It’s as important as ever for those who are immunocompromised to stay safe by getting vaccinated when recommended and following safety precautions.

The decisions of others during the COVID-19 pandemic can have dire consequences for the ones we love battling cancer. The Nash family, for example, has seen exactly the worst that can happen when someone coming into contact with a person with cancer decides to not be forthcoming about their health status.

Lauren Nash from Clarkston, Michigan, spoke with a Detroit TV station about how her grandmother, Barb Bartolovich, became ill with COVID-19.

“Somebody decided that testing positive for COVID is something they can hide,” Nash said. “The only way we found out is that the person owned up after Nana got sick.”

Bartolovich, 82, was struggling in the pandemic because she loved being with family. Even still, she made sure to get vaccinated and tried to only socialize with people taking similar precautions. So, when she went to play cards with her friends, she made sure to ask if everyone was vaccinated. They all said yes, but one player who had tested positive for the virus decided not to share that information and attend the game.

A a blood cancer survivor, Bartolovich’s immune system was likely weakened. She caught COVID-19, was hospitalized, ventilated and died on Dec. 21.

“She was just everything to everyone. As everyone says, if you knew Barb, you were loved,” Nash said. “She was taken too soon.”

Now, in honor of her late grandmother, Nash is asking everyone to take precautions to stop the spread of the deadly virus.

“It is not worth it. It is not worth knowing you hurt someone, potentially hurt someone, or killed someone because you want to go out and have fun,” she said. “I am just horrified at where we are and what is going on, that we are not taking into account people’s lives.”

How to Stay Safe

In recent weeks, COVID-19 cases have spiked across the country due to the new omicron variant. Consequently, it’s so important for those who are immunocompromised to stay safe and follow safe guidelines including staying at home, social distancing, regularly washing your hands and also getting vaccinated and boosted.

RELATED: Cancer Patients & COVID-19 — When to Stay Home and When to Go in to Your Doctor

Those who are immunocompromised can include people with preexisting conditions, people who have cancer or people who have gone through cancer treatment. All of these things can make a person more susceptible to contracting COVID-19 as well as having more serious health complications if they do get the virus. It’s recommended that those who are at higher risk try to limit their exposure to big groups and maintain COVID-19 guidelines.

Dr. Brieze Keeley Bell explains how immunocompromised people can stay safe during COVID-19

Last month, the Centers for Disease Control announced a “clinical preference” for individuals to receive an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine over Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine.

The CDC also just updated its recommendation today for when many people can receive a booster shot, shortening the interval from 6 months to 5 months for people who received the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine meaning that people can now receive a booster shot 5 months after completing their Pfizer primary series. The booster interval recommendation for people who received the J&J vaccine (2 months) or the Moderna vaccine (6 months), has not changed.

The CDC also recommends that people age 18 and up who are moderately or severely immunocompromised and received the Moderna primary series get an additional primary shot of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine 28 days after their second shot. And, as part of the update today, the CDC recommends that people age 5 and up who are moderately or severely immunocompromised and received the Pfizer primary series get an additional primary shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine 28 days after their second shot. At this time, only the Pfizer vaccine is authorized and recommended for children aged 5-11.

It’s important to note that these “additional” shots differ from the boosters. Everyone ages 16 years and older, including immunocompromised people, should get a booster shot – though you have to be 18 and over if you want a Moderna or Johnson and Johnson booster (as opposed to the Pfizer booster which is available for everyone 16 and up). Where these “additional” shots come into play is specifically for moderately or severely immunocompromised people because an additional dose may prevent serious disease in people whose immune systems may not have responded fully to the initial 2-dose series.

The COVID-19 Vaccine and Blood Cancer Patients

The COVID-19 vaccine is likely to be less effective in patients with blood cancer. However, those who are able to should still get the vaccine. In fact, studies have shown that there are still benefits for blood cancer patients who get vaccinated. According to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, one in four blood cancer patients do not produce detectable antibodies after their first two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, but 43 percent of them will produce antibodies after a third dose. Their data suggests that some people with blood cancer even achieve the antibody levels seen in healthy adults after their third dose.

What Should Blood Cancer Patients Do After They Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?

In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, Dr. Thomas Martin also recommended that people with blood cancer receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The following are his recommendations for safety precautions after blood cancer patients receive the vaccine:

  • Vaccinated patients undergoing therapy should still avoid large crowds
  • Masks and social distancing are also still needed when in public
  • Double mask during plane travel and avoid flights longer than six hours
  • Vaccinated patients receiving blood cancer therapy should continue to avoid restaurants or socializing with a lot of people

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