COLUMN: 'Stay inside': A plea from an immunocompromised student
As Central Michigan Life's Engagement Editor, my work is mostly done behind the scenes. I don't write stories or articles, but rather, I make sure the work of our staff is published on social media.
In the most simple terms, my job is to manage the social media channels of CM Life. I've got my fellow coworkers' backs by ensuring our content gets shown to the masses on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and, yes, even TikTok.
So, allow me to introduce myself.
Hi. I'm Danielle Larsen. I'm a senior graduating in May and I'm immunocompromised.
Living in this time with COVID-19 coronavirus, and its seemingly never-ending rampage on people around the world, is incredibly scary for me, as well as many other immunocompromised people. I don't fall into the category of college students who can claim, "If I get corona, I get corona." I'm stuck at home, looking out a window and seeing people of all ages who feel as though they don't have to worry about getting sick.
I have Crohn's Disease. Crohn's is a gastrointestinal disease that affects the digestive track with extreme inflammation. If left untreated, the disease can prove to have life-threatening complications.
Since being diagnosed at the age of 12, I have been hospitalized three times. I receive monthly treatments in the form of chemotherapy. For the most part, my treatments let me lead a normal life. In that sense, I'm lucky. I know I am. There are plenty of others who share my disease who cannot receive treatment.
However, because I do receive treatment, which is an immunosuppressant, I am more susceptible to sicknesses other people routinely fight off such as a cold, influenza and more. I am more susceptible to being affected by coronavirus than many people reading this.
I've had the flu once in my life. Last year, March 26, 2019, I was told I had both strep throat and the flu. My body did not react well. My stomach turned, hating my every move in attempts to get comfortable. Even when I finally got to a point where I thought I could fall asleep and let it pass, I would have to get up, my body hating me more, to throw up. Smells sent me over the edge, moving hurt. Breathing hurt, too. I could not catch a break.
This year, on March 11 in a congressional testimony, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said coronavirus is 10-times more deadly than the flu. Of course I'm scared of this disease.
Do I perhaps go a little overboard with my caution and prep? Honestly, that might be true. But it's how I can guarantee my safety.
I wish I could trust the people around me. I wish I believed they are also taking precautions. I wish I could trust them enough to relax a little, but I can't. I can't because I see them out my window breaking the "Stay Home. Stay Safe. Save Lives." executive order by Gov. Whitmer. I see them skip the sanitizing wipe for their cart at Walmart. I see them not covering their mouths when they cough. I see them not following basic CDC guidelines of avoiding close contact with others, sick or not.
When I see these videos of spring breakers out in Florida, or even when I see larger gatherings outside my own apartment, it really does feel like no one gives a damn.
I see them not having everyone's best interest at heart.
Normally, I wouldn't be overly concerned about flu season, or cold season or whatever sickness is making the rounds. My treatments make me feel so much better that sometimes I've actually forgotten I have a chronic disease that I will deal with for the rest of my life. There is no cure for me. There isn't one for COVID-19 either. And now the numbers are rising, the death toll is rising, the virus is in the county I live in and the hospital I go to and receive my monthly treatment - the threat we are facing has become more real to me.
On top of everything, I am a first-generation college student. I've worked five long years to get my degree and graduate cum laude. I was proud of the fact I would walk on May 9. This virus ruined that for my whole graduating class. Yes, it was only postponed and not flat-out canceled - for that I am grateful. But it destroyed what was meant to be our last semester on campus. Not a single senior knew saying goodbye just before spring break was to be the last time they'd set foot on this campus. I feel robbed. Don't rob me of my health, too.
I don't know about you, but I would like this to be over as soon as possible. Following the guidelines of social distancing helps us get there. Staying home where you can will help us get there. Please, help protect the people like me whose bodies won't allow us to fully protect ourselves.
In the Chippewa Marching Band, where I played trumpet for my whole college career, there were shows everyone liked, there were shows no one liked, there were shows where people were in between. Despite what we felt, the show had to go on and we still had to march. In marching band, you move as a team. Everyone participates. You don't get to choose. Why is now any different?
I have my coworkers' backs. And I have your back during this global pandemic.
Why don't you have mine?
Danielle Larsen is a Bay City senior graduating in May with a B.A.A in Integrative Public Relations. She plans to work with the Great Lakes Loons at Dow Diamond after graduation. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.