I don’t think most people understand what being immune compromised means. It’s just something everyone’s throwing around in the past few weeks. Being immune compromised from either an autoimmune disease, cancer (chemo), or a number of other reasons means that your body cannot easily fight off ANY viral/bacterial/fungal infection that comes into the body. This is especially important because Coronavirus that is not well studied and from what we know behaves differently in different people.
Over the last two years, my mom Sarah has had an autoimmune disease that effects her blood. It’s called Aplastic Anemia where your body fails to produce enough blood to live and your immune system attacks the blood that is made. She is currently on a blood builder and an immune suppressant drug which has saved her life. Most but not all of her blood cell numbers have gone up significantly over the last year which means that she can now live a ‘normal’ but cautious life.
There’s an immunity test called ANC, it measures your immunity levels in your blood. So, we wait to hear about my moms ANC levels weekly, to make sure she’s strong and she is safe enough to go outside. There have been times where her blood count was so low that she couldn’t go outside, even in a normal day-to-day world way before Coronavirus.
When she was first diagnosed, she spent 5 weeks in the hospital, received blood transfusions every day to make sure that her body could live. At one point, the worry was uncontrolled spontaneous internal bleeding. When she finally went home, she didn’t socialize for months because she was classified ‘Neutropenic’ which means your immune system is too weak to even eat in a restaurant. She’s no stranger to wearing masks in day to day life to protect herself from getting sick.
Over the course of two years, with the help of modern medicine, her blood levels have increased, her life has ‘normalized’. She is finally able to be around groups of people, and travel to see her family. But. If someone is sick in the family or in her friend group, she doesn’t risk it. She just doesn’t go to gatherings when someone is sick. So yeah. My mom and therefore my family have been practicing social distancing for two years.
Now, she’s finally at a place where she is getting better, getting healthier and her bone marrow is working! Producing enough blood to be able to live on its own.
But the Coronavirus situation has changed everything. What insane timing. She’s finally getting better and now its scary again for her to leave the house. She’s not leaving because her body is immune compromised. She is privilieged in the sense that she’s retired and has the luxury to stay inside. But not all immune compromised people have that luxury. Some will have to keep working to support family, or themselves, some are in jobs that won’t be work from home, or are still open. But my mom’s in full social distancing mode because it’s not worth the risk. There are 4 cases within an hour from her house, but we all know that means there are more undiagnosed cases.
Having family members who are immune compromised is scary in a normal world of germs and viruses. But this is truly different. We normally think of ‘abled’ as having a a full range of mental of physical abilities. It can look like someone with a compromised immune system is ‘abled’ because it doesn’t effect their exterior visual body. But we have to recognize the privilege of our ablism when we don’t consider those who are immune compromised.
How we behave towards our sick and our elders says everything about who we are as a society. What we do know about this virus is that MANY people who get it can be asymptomatic carriers and pass it on to those who couldn’t survive it. Put down your egos and protect those people. Stay inside, don’t go out when you don’t need to, stop hanging out with friends. This is not forever, but this is critical NOW. I’m asking from the deepest part of myself to check in with the deepest part of yours, to find your humanity and to stay home.
Thank you for reading, thank you from me, from my mom, from my sister, cousin and a few friends who are all immune compromised.