Pandemic: Being Vulnerable


I’ve been chronically ill my entire life; in and out of hospitals, undergone countless surgeries, living in medical centers for the majority of my childhood, all with no cure. I’ve learned to appreciate the little things and unfortunately, living in isolation has been a normal thing for me.

I’m older than a lot of NEC students so I lived through both SARS and the H1-N1. Although I was a young child when SARS was prevalent, I vividly remember my parents taking extra measures to keep me healthy, which meant isolation. People always say that I don’t look sick, and many tend to forget about people who are chronically ill. They don’t understand it until it affects them.

When the outbreak started, I was immediately worried because there is no vaccine. People who have strong immune systems could easily be carriers of this virus and if I accidentally shake their hand or they cough near me, I could get the virus and possibly….die. On top of the plethora of illnesses I am diagnosed with, I also have asthma. COVID-19 is notorious for causing pneumonia-like symptoms which can be fatal for people like me.

Currently it’s day number 35 of my self-isolation. In the early days, I was having fun. I’m used to isolating whenever I get sick and I spend my time playing video games and watching movies. But by the third week it was starting to become difficult for me.

My mental health was deteriorating. I had family and dog with me, yet I felt so alone, and I was struggling to get through each day without breaking down. I tried to remember what makes me happy, what I could do at home, and how to do it. I found some dance classes I could take online, which started to lift my spirits a bit. My mother and I did more puzzles and watched more movies together. We decided to talk about what is bothering us on a daily basis. It seems stupid, but we figured out that we started fighting so much because we weren’t communicating enough, and all our pent-up anger and stress over the news and this virus wasn’t helping.

I kept up with my college classes and homework, but the days just seem to be drifting by. I feel like I’m on vacation that seems to never end, yet I can’t leave my neighborhood. Luckily, my mother can work from home, but I lost my job with the outbreak, so I have to depend on the government to help me, which is also scary at times. I have a roof over my head, I have a family who loves and supports me, I have free food, and wifi, but I still can’t shake this feeling that going outside, even to the grocery store or the park, means that I could get this virus.

One of the things we’ve talked about in my classes is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail. In it he writes, “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” This quote has been important and brought up a lot in my life, lately. Some people have been reluctant to stay indoors because they might have a better immune system or they aren’t directly affected by the virus.

What they seem to lack is the understanding that it’s not just about them. We are all part of a bigger picture in regards to COVID-19.

Here’s a scenario: David, who is a healthy person, comes in contact with another person, who is a carrier of COVID-19. David lives with an elderly grandmother and a younger sister who is immunocompromised. David comes home, forgets to wash his hands and then hugs his grandmother and sister. David, three days later, feels fine, yet his grandmother and sister start developing a cough and fever. A week later, grandmother and the sister are both on a ventilator. David gets tested, finds out he’s positive for COVID-19, and he’s an asymptomatic carrier. This could be a normal scenario today. Many people don’t seem to understand the gravity of this situation and now it’s spiraling out of control.

 So for someone like me, who is immunocompromised, I constantly have to be on my toes, even when my mother brings home groceries, opens the door and then hugs me, or we just go outside for a walk.

I hope that soon, this will start to ease, and a vaccine will be developed so I don’t have to live in fear, and that I may be able to work again. I also hope that with this article, readers who may not like the idea of isolation can understand that others are being affected severely.

Without them isolating as well, the chance of recovery and normalcy soon is very slim.

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My name is Mariah Olmstead and I'm a Senior at NEC. I transferred to NEC in fall of 2019 and I'm currently a communications major with a concentration in Journalism and Media/Production. Before coming to NEC, I worked for the Walt Disney Company and Universal Studios Orlando as a performer, and before that I was a student at Community College of Vermont. I want to be a travel writer or work for a production/media company once I graduate in the spring. I love Kpop, theatre, and dancing. Most of my editorials are personal stories or related to theme parks, and the Kpop industry. Once I graduate, I plan on teaching English abroad in Korea.
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