Pandemic Panic Is Real for the Immunocompromised
As the meeting doors open, I’m met with the coolness of a windowless, air-conditioned room. Normally, I would welcome this gift on a sweltering summer day, but today is different.
I immediately question the purity of the air I’m about to breathe in. I reluctantly enter and scan the room for my seat. My heart races as I realize there are hundreds of people in a closed space. Only a handful of people are wearing masks.
I contemplate running back out to the safety of fresh air, but I don’t have a choice. Despite my fears, I need my job and the health insurance that keeps me alive. COVID-19 scares me, but so does dying from scleroderma.
Florida lifts school mask mandate
I’m a teacher in Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis recently signed an executive order making masks optional in public schools. This means I will be teaching in a building with hundreds of unmasked children.
These are young kids that typically have a hard time remembering to cover their mouths when they cough, or to not pick their noses. Don’t get me wrong, I love these cuties and my job. I’m just not comfortable being in public without any protection to slow the spread of the virus.
Social distancing isn’t possible in a classroom. I was optimistically hoping that the majority of students and faculty would still wear their masks, but after walking into that staff meeting where those who wore masks were in the minority, I’m no longer hopeful.
I know masks are inconvenient and uncomfortable, and wearing them has been a heated topic in homes across the world. Some experts cite their effectiveness, while others claim the opposite. I don’t have any credentials to join the debate about the science, but I do know that our local hospitals are once again overflowing with extremely sick patients battling COVID-19, particularly the new delta variant. At the very least, masks are a sign that people are trying!
I’m vaccinated, so why am I afraid?
Despite receiving both shots of the COVID-19 vaccine, I may not have much protection against the virus. My specialists have warned me several times that there are concerns about the vaccine’s effectiveness in people with compromised immune systems.
I can get a blood test to see if I have the antibodies to protect me, but I can’t handle the possibility of learning that I have no armor against this monster. I’m close to a complete breakdown, and I need to hold on to some type of hope.
I just want to live
Every day, I patrol my home armed with sanitizers. I enforce strict rules for everyone who comes in: Shoes off outside, wash hands, change clothes, sanitize phones. It’s exhausting! The frustrated sighs I hear constantly are exhausting, too.
When I’m in public, I try my best to stay safe. Wearing a quality N95 mask is uncomfortable, but it improves my chances of not contracting this dangerous virus. Carefully selecting a seat far from others helps limit the droplets coming directly at me. And I’m constantly drowning my hands in sanitizer and holding my breath every time I hear someone cough. Does that even help?
Sometimes I want to give up
Regarding my husband and kids, I know they’re not as careful as I am. It’s certainly not because they don’t care. I’m forever grateful for their efforts, but they’re not psychotic like me! You have to be all-consumed and obsessed to reach the level of awareness I have about COVID-19.
Jokes aside, I’m not handling this pandemic very well. Sometimes I think it would be better for everyone if I got it over with and got the virus. I try to convince myself to let go. If I survive, great! If I don’t, it is what it is.
Of course I don’t wan to die, I simply crave a life I can fully enjoy.
Despite these thoughts, my love for my husband and the girls always slaps me back to reality. What if I do get sick and my lung function worsens, or God forbid I die? I don’t want my family to question whether they had done all they could to protect me.
And my children are teenagers. I refuse not to be here to help them navigate these tough years while they find themselves.
We spent months completely locked in at the start of the pandemic. Then my children watched the world move on as their friends returned to school without them. My husband lost his rankings at work by taking a leave. Letting go is not an option, because they’ve already given up too much for me.
I’m not ready for the world to return to “normal.” It’s too soon, and it feels like the lives of those of us in the high-risk community are being put at even greater risk.
Note: Scleroderma News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Scleroderma News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to scleroderma.