Peter’s experience is a reminder to take precautions against COVID-19

Peter’s experience is a reminder to take precautions against COVID-19

Peter Younis is well-known in the Port Campbell and Timboon community, both for his work as a veterinarian at The Vet Group, and his community involvement with the Heytesbury Historical Society and Port Campbell State Emergency Service (SES).

Peter has been living with Waldenstroms Macroglobulinemia (WM), a rare type of blood cancer that begins in the white blood cells, since 2004. In the past 18 years Peter has experienced treatments including chemotherapy, and more recently was part of a clinical trial for a new drug. In fact Peter was only the eighth person in the world to be treated with this drug, now known as Zanubrutinib.

“I have been fortunate, with treatments allowing me to live a relatively normal life over that time, it’s been no big drama,” Peter said.

A relapse in 2021, required another round of treatment. The drugs worked well on the lymphoma, but left Peter with reduced immunocompetence. Peter and wife Sue have been careful throughout the pandemic, knowing that with Peter’s reduced immunity an infection could be very dangerous. By late 2022, Peter had received four COVID-19 vaccines, a treatment with a monoclonal antibody and had tried very hard to avoid the virus. However, on the 6th December 2022, he tested COVID-19 positive.

Peter’s condition gradually worsened and just before Christmas, he was admitted to South West Healthcare in Warrnambool. He was sent home, briefly, but was then readmitted and transferred to the respiratory unit in Geelong.

“The main problem was that my body had an inability to rid itself of the virus. My first negative COVID-19 test was on the 20th of January, 45 days after the initial positive test” Peter said.

Peter is extremely thankful for the team at Warrnambool and Geelong hospitals, the local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and ambulance staff and the doctors at Timboon Clinic. “The care I received – you won’t get that anywhere else in the world,” Peter added.

“The team in Geelong are very experienced, with the scientific knowledge, but also the lived experience during the pandemic of dealing with people with immunosuppression and COVID,” Peter said.

“I have been left with pretty significant weight loss, massively reduced lung capacity and have experienced mouth, nose and throat ulcerations,” Peter said.

However, Peter is clear that he is not complaining about his situation. He sees it as a valuable lesson about the impact the virus can have on people living with compromised immunity, and their families.

“It’s been life changing for not only myself and Sue, but for our whole family. It’s limited how often we can visit with family. We wear masks when we go out. I have only just had my first outing after having had COVID,” Peter said.

Peter knows the importance of being vaccinated. “The evidence is very clear that vaccinations make a significant difference. Vaccinated people are less likely to get seriously ill, are less likely to require intensive care and are less likely to die.” he added. He is thankful that he had received four vaccinations prior to his infection.

“We need to look at what we can do, not what we can’t. There are simple things people can do to avoid contracting COVID and sharing it with people in their families who may be immunocompromised. These include wearing masks, hand hygiene, assessing your risk profile with respect to large gatherings and being vaccinated,” he said.

Peter’s planned transition to semiretirement is on hold. He is currently, physically incapable of working as a vet for the 1-2 days a week he was planning. “We don’t know how long my recovery will take, we don’t know what the endpoint will look like,” Peter said.

Peter’s experience serves as a reminder of the importance of taking COVID-19 seriously and following health guidelines. By doing so we can protect not only ourselves but also those around us, especially those who are at higher risk of severe illness.

As of 20th February, all Australian adults who haven’t had a COVID-19 booster or a confirmed case of the virus in the past six months are eligible for an additional jab. For more information, please visit and to book a vaccination appointment, please contact Timboon Clinic on 5558 6088.

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