by Julien-Pierre Campbell
“You know,” my friend said, “we really don’t need to be worried about the coronavirus. Old people are really the only ones dying, and —” She paused. “Oh, well, I guess people with no immune systems too, or cancer, or something I read that online.”
I knew, rationally, that my friend meant these as words of comfort. As an immunocompromised person, however, it felt like a nail in my coffin. Not only did it feel as if she was telling me I’d be the first to go, but it also felt as if I was supposed to celebrate this fact.
It’s a very scary time right now. Colleges are closing and friends are abruptly returning to their home states. Concerts and plays are getting cancelled. People are buying enough cleaning supplies and toilet paper to fill a bunker. Friends refuse to hug or shake hands. Day-to-day life changes rapidly as more warnings are put in place. Even something simple as grocery shopping feels like an epic journey. It’s all the more stressful when you’re a target demographic for this pandemic.
I’m immunocompromised. Though I deal with various physical limitations (such as chronic pain and a limp), this is what affects my lifestyle the most. I catch every cold, flu, and stomach bug that goes around. Strep throat, ear infections, chills, dizziness — these are familiar to me. I’m allergic to everything I touch, from grass and plants to dust to pet hair. I’m constantly covered in painful, itchy hives. I have a cough more often than I don’t. My nose is always stuffed up or running. I’ve had bad fevers three times this year, and it is only March.
This makes life difficult. What makes it even more difficult is person after person repeating the narrative that only the eldery and the immunocompromised are at serious risk for death by coronavirus. It’s insulting. I hear, “Don’t worry! You might die, but everyone else will be fine! Your life is of less value to me, because I have a strong immune system!”
As much as I try to be thick-skinned, this hurts. Your immunocompromised friends’ lives are of equal value to those who do not deal with this. Please be kind, and practice sensitivity. Silly as it may sound, put yourself in the shoes of those who are scared in the face of this threat. It’s not only a threat to our schooling and jobs, it is a threat to our lives.