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Health officials explain how covid can be more severe in cancer patients

With a cough, fever and low oxygen, he spent five days in the hospital. He knew that people with blood and bone marrow disorders are less likely to survive.

JEFFERSON PARISH, La. — A Metairie man is sharing his COVID story in hopes of helping others who have Leukemia, like he does.

He wants to remind other patients to be extra cautious and get the vaccine. 

Meade Phelps enjoys an active life, playing tennis, but in 2007 he was diagnosed with CLL, a type of leukemia. 

Treatment put him in remission until July 2020. And then came another health problem in October.

“I went to a wedding and the wedding was attended by a lot of young people and didn't wear a face mask,” Phelps said with regret.

Phelps, and other wedding guests, caught the coronavirus.

“I let my guard down. I shouldn't have. I knew I had a problem,” he said.

With a cough, fever and low oxygen, he spent five days in the hospital. He knew that people with blood and bone marrow disorders are less likely to survive.

When asked if he was worried and concerned when he got a positive test, Phelps replied, “Well I'm 74 years old and I've had a good life and I figured well I'll do my best to survive this.”

With the help of steroids, remdesiver, and convalescent plasma he did survive. LSU Health hematologist, oncologist Dr. Suki Subbiah said more than people with other cancers, those with blood and bone marrow cancers are at higher risk for contracting coronavirus, getting sicker, and not surviving. This is an important message in southeast Louisiana.

“We do have a lot of patients who have more severe forms of these blood cancers, or tend to present with later stage disease,” explained Dr. Suki Subbiah an Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at LSU Health Sciences Center in the section of hematology oncology.

Doctors still don't know if the COVID vaccine will be 95 percent effective at preventing sickness in these patients, but Dr. Subbiah still recommends it for patients who don't have severe allergies.

“I would say the risk of not getting the vaccine is far more devastating. because it could still be very protective for this patient,” she said noting that they know getting the natural virus is dangerous.

Phelps got his first dose of the vaccine recently, and X-rays show his lungs are clear. Now he'll will be treated for anemia and a higher heart rate.

 Doctors think the reason people with blood and bone marrow disorders have more problems with COVID-19 is because their immune systems are not working properly.

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