Being High Risk in a Global Pandemic

  Right now, society is navigating new and uncharted waters and becoming a part of history, whether it is realized or not. However, these new waters are infected and highly lethal, and especially so to those deemed “high risk.” Those that make up this group of people are those who, if infected with COVID-19, are more susceptible to the virus and would have a more difficult time overcoming and warding off its mysterious and ever-changing symptoms. This group contains the elderly and those with preexisting conditions like lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, cancers, the immune-compromised, and other chronic illnesses. 

     While the threat of COVID-19, Coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, “Miss. Rona,” or whatever you want to call it, impacts everyone to varying degrees regardless of your gender, race, religion, geographical location, or socioeconomic status, the fear is instilled to a much deeper extent to the “high risk” group of people. For such people, their daily existence and its quality are never quite certain or cemented. So, adding a variable to the medical equation makes it much more difficult for peace of mind to be truly secured and the health that one might have to be sustained. 

     For myself, I am immunocompromised. I also possess numerous other health conditions that put me at a greater risk for contracting this obscure new virus. While many of my peers, friends, and twenty-something counterparts may not be too afraid of getting this virus, I, along with so many others, do not have that luxury. There is a health privilege that allows for far too many people to be blinded by the devastating effects of not only this illness but many, many others. The healthy are not exposed to the daily life of uncertainty and the detriments of ailments that take over every fiber of your being. This allows them the luxury and the blissful ignorance of not knowing what being sick truly embodies and entails. While everyone has an occasional cold, flu, or strep throat, it is usually only ever temporary. For those who are high risk that is not always the case. Those who are high risk are no stranger to resiliency, endurance, hope, but also uncertainty, and making the best of a far-too-lengthy situation. I hope those who have been living fearlessly during this pandemic are aware that not everyone can do the same. Whether chronically ill or not, everyone should be cautious and considerate during the unforeseeable future.

     The days before the pandemic was not certain, either. Each day was filled with precarious variability, physical and mental surges, and lingering trepidation. However, with an added element the fear and unpredictability of one’s health and quality of life were greatly amplified. Now, each day is a gamble. Doing even the “essential” puts those in this group in great peril and creates profound fear and paranoia. This fear and paranoia can make themselves at home in every corner of your brain and infiltrate your serenity. Your very core starts to quake, your peace of mind and wellbeing begins to crumble, and your sense of safety begins to evaporate little by little. Every move you make and step you take needs to be calculated and strategic: always, always, always wear the mask, always wash your hands and sanitize, do not be around too many people, maintain a safe distance, go out as little as possible, etc. These thoughts often run on repeat and carry such a heaviness that bogs you down and the gravity can often be unbearable. Even with every precaution being taken, there is no certainty that you will be safe. For those at high risk, it seems like just looking at someone carrying the virus (now and any other time) can make you contract it, or so it feels. Everything is increased: chances of getting it, the length of time it could impact you, your fear, your paranoia, and your inability to be at ease. The days of being only moderately afraid and having a sense of control are slowly vanishing and morphing into a new norm of dubiety.

     To get to the state I am at now, it took two and a half years of Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) monthly infusions, two years of twice-daily antibiotic infusions, three PICC lines, and the uncertainty of my life expectancy. These medical hardships have only made me more cautious, but also instilled a great desire and lustful longing for life. The possibility of not being able to fulfill my worldly fantasies only proliferates my desire to see them come into fruition. I will be damned if the carelessness of others prevents too many more innocent people from being able to take the world by storm and be the protagonist in their own dreamy narrative. Now is not the time to become idle and egocentric. We must treat every day with respect, gratitude, and selflessness to ensure the safety and longevity of those around us- high risk or not. May we use this time to reflect, think, envision, and reconstruct the broken systems and institutions we so desperately need for us as a society to truly thrive and reach a harmonious homeostasis. Even though the world may be drastically changing, I have not seen the world be changed, and I am not ready to not see that. If we as a whole do not exhibit and practice the same guidelines we would want to be instilled for our grandparents, we will not be able to become grandparents ourselves. Let us nurture and protect this generation in order to produce and secure generations to come. Let's do our part: wash our hands, wear a mask, be considerate, and keep fighting for change. Let's make this chapter of the history books one we do not desperately regret.