Scleroderma in the Time of COVID-19

I’m immunocompromised. When H1N1 hit in 2009, my son and I both caught it before the vaccine was available. My son rode it out under the close supervision of his pediatrician. Shortly after, I developed H1N1 symptoms.

My GP ordered me to the Loma Linda Veterans Hospital Emergency Department because I was and continue to have a compromised immune system. I take immunosuppressant drugs to keep scleroderma and sarcoidosis at bay.

The Emergency Department immediately gave me an antiviral medication, which shortened my bout with H1N1 significantly. Still, for 48 hours, I felt like I was going to die. I don’t say that often because I’ve had many near-misses with death. I am alive today because I was able to be proactive immediately. Had I not had the option to go to the ER for immediate treatment, I most likely would have died.

Here we are 11 years later. After H1N1, if it was never an “if” for another pandemic, it was when. With air traffic and people walking barefoot through security and heaven knows what else, 10 years sounds about right.

COVID-19 has a 14 day incubation period with no symptoms. Tests are not readily available. It’s not a matter of if, it’s when one gets it. At this point, it’s pretty clear that we all will become ill or be carriers.

It’s safe to say at this point, everyone is either carrying it or has it. Out of the 327.2 million United States citizens, 97% of us who get it will not die. As part of the immunocompromised, I am at a higher risk of becoming one of the 3%.
3% doesn’t sound like a lot, but 3% of 327.2 million is 9.8 million. That’s not the world, that is just the United States.

Fear paralyzes me. So I replace that with respect, respect for the seriousness of COVID-19. Respect to individuals who do not wish to be hugged, touched, and decide to self-isolate.

At first, I did not take it seriously. After reading what is going on around the world and listening to doctors and nurses speaking out anonymously, I had a “Come to Jesus” moment. I accept that apathy is a privilege. COVID-19 is here, and now it’s time to face the challenge.

Los Angeles is eerily quiet. On my way home last night, I stopped at 2 gas stations. The gas stations had the pumps on, but the gas station stores were locked, and there was no one in sight. I’m scheduled to host a show on March 27th, but it will most likely be canceled.

Last night, the laughter I got at The Federal Bar in NoHo with the Rebels of Comedy, healed the room and gave me a ton of energy, but beneath the laughter, the weight of the past 24 hours hung in the air like thick, invisible smoke.

I don’t really follow sports, but I felt crushed by the postponed NBA and NHL, travel bans, and the chaos we face as a country.

Entertainment keeps us busy, laughter heals. I don’t want to stay home, and I’m sure no one does.

Originally, I wrote, “I may have to self isolate”. Even when the world is shut down, I’m still in denial- not my best coping mechanism.

This is our wake-up call, and we cannot let apathy win. People’s lives depend on it.