Heart failure patients have stopped hugging their children when they return from school because they are terrified of contracting Covid-19, it has emerged.
Some have told the Irish Heart Foundation (IHF) they also instruct their kids to change out of their uniforms before entering the family home.
HSE statistics from mid-December highlighted out of 1,866 Covid-19 deaths, 93pc had an underlying condition. Of those who died, 41pc of those had chronic heart disease.
Pauline O’Shea, who was diagnosed with heart failure aged 38, said: “Before my nine-year-old daughter returned to school this week, she wrote in her homework: ‘My mum has a heart condition and I’m worried I’ll give her Covid’.
“This week alone, my children are in three different classrooms, with anywhere from 10 to 30 children in each. That means I’m indirectly exposed to up to 70 people - children, teens and young adults - any of whom might be carrying Covid-19.”
Ms O’Shea (47), from Ardnacrusha, Co Clare, had open heart surgery in 2012 after developing spontaneous coronary artery dissection – a tearing of the wall of the artery.
“I’ve had three heart attacks, gone into cardiac arrest, been in intensive care on a ventilator.
“I don’t need to go back there with Covid.
“I know another heart patient, with two younger children, who change out of their school uniforms before she can safely give them a hug.
“It’s very tough but her condition is so serious that she can’t risk getting Covid-19 because she knows it could rob those children of their mother.”
Ms O’Shea and others are aware of the potential grave risk Covid-19 poses to those with heart and respiratory issues – yet they remain at Level 7 for vaccination, after those aged 65 to 69.
Covid-19 patients with severe heart failure are 37pc more likely to die compared to other hospitalised Covid patients, according to data.
The IHF is now calling for an “urgent review” of the vaccine priority list.
Younger people living with severe heart failure are not deemed at very high risk under the national immunisation programme.
The charity wants to see heart patients moved to Level 4 - which includes the 16 to 69 age cohort who are deemed to be at very high risk.
They also want in-patients awaiting cardiac surgery, to be moved to Level 4.
UK research shows the 30-day mortality rate of patients with acute heart failure nearly doubled during the pandemic.
The IHF’s medical director Dr Angie Brown, said there is a consensus among cardiologists and the HSE’s National Heart Programme that younger heart failure patients and those awaiting cardiac surgery, should be vaccinated without delay.
“Studies emerging on the impact of Covid on heart failure patients, in particular, are extremely worrying and require us to do more for those at higher risk,” Dr Brown said.
“The National Heart Programme has challenged the prioritisation of heart failure patients and inpatients awaiting surgery.
“We’re calling on the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, to order an urgent review of the priority level for these patients to ensure lives are not put at unnecessary risk.”