Covid-19 is affecting me. It will probably affect you too.
In 2013, my wife Maria was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, which, if you don’t know, is a chronic inflammatory disease where the bones in the spine start to fuse. It is an autoimmune type of arthritis. People who have autoimmune disorders have an immune system that attacks healthy cells. Maria uses Enbrel to mitigate her symptoms and to fight back the ankylosing spondylitis. Without it, she would be in significant pain, have a hard time doing just about anything outside of the house, and basically not be able to lead a normal life.
Unfortunately, Enbrel generally weakens your immune system. It makes it harder to fight infections, and my wife can get sicker far easier. Our health insurance allows us to be able to afford such a medication. We are incredibly lucky.
Before the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, our lives were pretty ordinary. My wife self-administered her injections, and while they are not as simple as a Star Trek-style hypospray, they are pretty straightforward, albeit painful. She’d have a flare-up occasionally, but nothing too major. It was easy to forget the ankylosing spondylitis was even affecting her. It was, of course, but she doesn’t let it bother her. She does not complain.
Now we face Covid-19, which can cause flu-like symptoms and can lead to death in high-risk patients. The entire time Maria has used Enbrel, I worried it would start to not work as well. My worry now is her contracting Covid-19.
We have decided not to cancel a planned trip to Florida by commercial jet airliner. Plus, we are doing all the right things that seem about as practical as possible: hand-washing for 30 seconds, buying over-the-counter medications, gathering up the hand sanitizer and other supplies. Maria confessed she’s worried about the trip but is taking all the precautions. I’m worried but not showing it as best I can. I have the worry gene. She has the plan for every eventuality gene.
If she were to encounter someone with the novel coronavirus, I’m not sure what we would do. I want her to be as healthy as possible when stepping on the plane and dealing with the airport crowds. I worry about being exposed and unwittingly exposing her. The complications of a quarantine or hospital stay are terrifying. Everyone is fine now. If it changes, there’s not much I can do to protect her.
Being concerned about this potential pandemic is making me continuously turn down the panic knob. I’ve read people who are seriously worried and preparing for the end days and others not being concerned enough. I hope I’m somewhere in the middle.
It’s frustrating to me to hear people with influential voices downplay the risk. The federal government, news organizations, and others have caused the spread of the virus to worsen. When they dismiss the more than 700 people who have tested positive for the virus and the 26 people who have died, it makes me feel like my wife is not “worth the effort.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
The worry I have regarding my family is not unfounded. It should not be waved away. There are high-risk people everywhere. Doing the basics like hand-washing and staying home when you’re sick is important.
I recently went to a sold-out college basketball game and did not encounter one masked person. How soon before that changes? How soon before everything is canceled?
Covid-19 isn’t just the same as the flu. Besides, the flu does kill people. Sure, a relatively healthy person likely won’t die from exposure to Covid-19. Still, the reason all these events like South by Southwest and Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade are being canceled is that the organizers are trying to minimize the exposure across the board. It’s absolutely the people with the “underlying health condition” that are at risk.
Like my wife.