Monday, May 04, 2020

From My Student

I have an immunocompromised student, Hannah. She survived a heart transplant at age thirteen, but as most of us know, getting an organ transplant is just the beginning of surviving.

I asked her to write a guest post for this blog, which she very kindly did:

On April 30, 2011 I received my transplant. I was thirteen at the time, and I did not understand everything. My doctors explained everything in detail for me and did an amazing job, but being so young, it didn't make sense. An example, I cannot have kids. Well, my own that is. I can conceive a child but cannot carry a pregnancy for more than a trimester, if even a month. This is due to my medication which harms the baby and suppresses my immune system.

Which is where I would like to focus on next. I know many are tired of hearing about and discussing COVID-19, some of you may be following the Stay at Home order, the social distancing, and all that jazz. Good for you! Gold star, A for effort, whatever. I want to focus on those who are not. The ones who say "Well it's not that bad the news/CDC is making it out to be. It's my right and my choice if I want to go to the store every day, talk to every person I see, and I'm not following those guidelines! I can't stay at home for more than a few hours, I'm going crazy!"

Now, I understand, trust me I do. But it's not about you and being bored in your house. It's about saving lives, about keeping exposures at a minimum, keeping your family safe. Yes, going to the store for groceries is essential and important. As well as going to work, if you were able to keep your job.

Now, think back to the introduction. Remember how I stated I can't have my own kids because of my medicine. I stated that my medicine suppresses my immune system. Do you know what that means? A 24 hour stomach bug lasts a week for me. It can kill me. Strep throat can kill me. The common cold and flu will kill me. Whenever flu season rolls around, I have to wear a mask and gloves at school. Sometimes, I have to move completely online instead of being on campus for that semester. My job (which I am unemployed from due to my health and safety) has to make accommodations around me. I have to stay in the back all day, meaning no interactions with customers or coworkers. Right now, I cannot go back to my job until COVID either blows over, calms down, or there's a cure.

For my final point, this is difficult for me to explain and talk about in a serious manner. I like to joke and make light of dark subjects, dark humor. Especially when it comes to my death and near death experiences. "Wait, how can you be alive if you died?" Long story short, once I did crash and had to be shocked back. The second is when they took my old heart out and put my current one in. My near death experience happened in the fall of 2018. I had just started at the university. I didn't know anyone, and didn't know how to explain the situation to my new fellow students and instructors. Thankfully everyone there is very understanding and was happy to work with me if the time came.

Sadly, it did. My mother, friend and I were at a check-up clinic visit in Arkansas Children's Hospital, North Little Rock. Everyone is laughing, we're all having a great time. Until my doctor comes in. (I won't give out names out of respect and privacy.) My doctor tells my mother and friend to leave the room. They asks me if I've been around anyone sick, how bad the flu is where I'm from, if I've been taking my medicine, standard stuff. After going through the process and answering questions, he tells me I am in rejection. Meaning, my body, antibodies, were attacking my heart, essentially killing me. My heart wasn't pumping fast enough, and I could die in the next few days, or even hours. Shock was obviously in my system, because all I could say was "I''m supposed to go wedding dress shopping this weekend."

That's right dear reader, my wedding plans were put on hold until I made it out, if I even made it. I asked for them to not tell my mother or my friend, and I needed to make a few phone calls. So I lost my job then too, in November of 2018. After doing so, my mother and friend come in, and my doctor tells them what is going on since I was a blubbering and sobbing wreck. I had to move completely online for that semester and the spring of 2019. Luckily my professors went into the immediate "Ok, whatever we can do for you we are going to do. Don't worry about any assignments coming up, you are excused from them. Just rest and feel better."

Which is exactly what I did. Luckily my treatment was just to pump me full of steroids and wait. If that did not work, I would need a new transplant. Now you may be going "Ok, but how does this apply to me? Why should your story matter to me? How is this important or relevant?"

This is how. This is temporary for you. This stay at home, social distancing, etc., that is all temporary for you. For myself and other immune-suppressed people, this will be our lives from here on out. We can't do things others can. I cannot have kids, I cannot do things other normal women can. Such as swimming, if it's not a pool, it's not happening. If there's a virus outbreak, I have to stay home and not interact with the public. I can't even see my own family right now. I. Can't. Even. See. My. Family. I had to rush my own wedding because of COVID. My near death put it on hold, and the pandemic had to rush it.

Life's not fair, we can all agree to that. But at least you can live your life when things go back to normal. I will never be able to go back to normal, not after 2011.

*** *** ***

I've edited out some identifying information, though I suspect everyone who works in my department knows exactly who I'm talking about. She's smart and tough and someone we all love working with -- one of my best students.

Her identity isn't the point, though. This is who people are talking about when they say "only" people with other problems will die from Covid-19, so no big deal. (I've actually seen protesters claiming that "only the weak" will die, because apparently for some people eugenics is cool again.)

Anyone who is whining about how they're being "oppressed" because they have to practice social distancing right now, that's the message you're sending, to my student and to everyone else: Some lives don't matter.

Or at least they don't matter enough for you to suffer a tiny amount of social inconvenience.

Scores gather in Huntington Beach to protest coronavirus stay-at ...
Give me Liberty, so long as it's only Your Death We're talking about


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this...... and Kent State below. I remember. Vietnam and Kent State and all the protests...... And J*red now calls more than that number dead a huge success in 2 months as opposed to 11 years........

delagar said...

I'm just old enough to remember Kent State, and especially people claiming the students got what they deserved.