Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Why Is Covid19 Different To Me?

Why is Covid19, also only known as the Corona Virus, diff  erent to me than all of the other viruses and outbreaks I have seen over my survivorship?

First, let’s start from the beginning.  I lost my spleen in 1988, went through chemo and radiation therapies in 1989 and 1990.  Now, while I am jumping ahead of the discussion, it is these two factors that lead me to the status of being considered “vulnerable” because of the damage caused from those events in my life over thirty years ago.

Now, to be fair, I was unaware that I was “vulnerable” for over half of my survivorship.  It was not until 2008, that I learned the many health complications that I have, that leave me “vulnerable.”  So, let’s look at the time period up until 2008.  The following were viruses or outbreaks as documented by the WHO that were dealt with in the US.  I will call this “period A”.

1996  Dengue

1998  Influenza

1999  Encephalitis

2000  Acute febrile, meningitis

2001  Anthrax

2002  West Nile

2003  Influenza, SARS

2004  SARS, Avian Flu

2005  Avian Flu

2006  Botulism, Avian Flu

2007  Avian Flu

Along with the annual flu, these were the things that we here in the US had to deal with.  As mentioned, this is per the World Health Organization (WHO), and I need to stress the importance of the WHO.  Because if you saw the list of diseases and viruses each year that were listed for all of the other countries around the world, had they reached over here, it is likely we would have an entirely different world, if any getting around the turn of the century.

My point with calling this grouping of years, “period A,” because at this point, I was still unaware of how “vulnerable” I was.  I got no vaccines, even for flu.  I never came down with any of these viruses and on at least two occasions, went right into the firestorm of two of those virus, SARS in 2004, and bird flu in 2006 to adopt my daughters.  I was given some antibiotics to take if I felt ill, but that was it.  Those meds were not used.  In all honesty, I never gave any of these viruses any thought.

But in 2008, things changed in a big way.  I had discovered, that side effects from my treatments had progressed over the years, and without me being followed up, had gotten very bad.  So much so, I had to have open heart surgery to save my life, moments away from certain death from a fatal heart attack.  But as I learned all of the problems that now existed with my body, so did another issue, my lack of immunity, the ability to fight off infections and viruses.

Upon becoming the patient of a long term survivorship clinic, one of the things researched about my body, was my immunity.  Blood titres would reveal I had no immunity against pneumonia and meningitis.  And so, along with a lecture for me not getting annual flu shots, a personal preference, and to my doctor an unfortunate risk I take every year, he did insist on me getting boosters for pneumonia and meningitis.  The issue I had with that, was I was given those vaccines prior to my having my spleen removed for my cancer diagnosis.  These vaccines were supposed to be lifetime.  Losing my spleen evidently changed that.  The problem was, that a single booster of each vaccine, did not cause my body to react.  I needed two additional boosters for pneumonia and an additional one for meningitis to finally show titres.  But besides showing titres, it should my body lacked the ability to fight infections and viruses.

So, it is only normal then, that I should be concerned about news of a potential virus outbreak.  I present to you, “period B”

2009  H1N1 (swine flu)  PANDEMIC LEVEL OF SPREAD

2010   H1N1

2012  Corona Virus, Hanta Virus

2013  MERS, Corona Virus

2014  MERS, Ebola, Entero Virus

2015  Zika, Measles, Lassa Fever

2016  Salmonella, Elizabethkingia, Guillaine-Barre Syndrome, Zika

2017  MERS

2018  Listeria

2019  Measles

Now again, we always had a flu that we were dealing with each year.  And something else I just noticed as I was going through this section, especially over the last few years, very little information mentioned on the WHO web site as far as issues in the US.  And I know, that we had other outbreaks to deal with, that were mentioned for other countries.  Out of curiosity, I did have to look up what “Elizabethkingia” was, especially since it happened here.  It is a genus of bacteria found in soil, leading to a pathogen in hospital environments.  I did not research that any further.  Trying to stay focused here.

So, unlike “period A” where I had no reason to feel concerned, “period B” was different because of my awareness.  I still declined flu vaccines, and I also had to receive several more boosters of pneumvax and one more for meningitis.  The only exception that I made was in 2010, when my doctor was finally able to convince me of the need to take the “swine flu” pandemic seriously and get the vaccine (that will be another post), as well as the annual flu vaccine.  Well, as if my body was not challenged enough with those two shots, got another pneumonia booster that week also.  And that was the last time I got any vaccines.

But just as I did with “period A”, “period B” was pretty much business as usual.  I went to work.  I went to the doctor.  I went to the emergency room many times (documented on this blog for the many incidents).  But not really any concern.  Why not?

Why is it different in 2020 with Covid19?  At least for me.

Declared a pandemic, just as the swine flu in 2010, Covid19 has huge unknowns.  At the time, there was not even any testing available.  All we would here were symptoms from the effects of the virus, most notable, pneumonia, a condition that I have dealt with at least twice before, and combined with my other vulnerabilities, put me at high risk.  Unlike 2010, there is no vaccine, still, and no known treatment other than guessing here and there.  And the other big difference, the ease of the spread.

But there is one notable difference for me.  And that is the warning that I have gotten from my doctors.  Sure, I watch television, and for those networks that actually reveal facts such as numbers, that information aligns with my doctors concerns.  And while all of the medical experts of the CDC and NIH and FDA are recommending social distancing and stay-at-home and masks, my doctors did not mince words.  Do not travel.  Stay at home.  Stay away from as many people as you can.  You may not have a chance against this virus.  Unlike the other outbreaks, there is no cure, there is no vaccine.

I trust my doctors.  Information that I get from the news, no matter who, it does not get a priority over what I get from my doctors.  I have re-scheduled medical appointments.  I have cancelled visits with my children.  I have literally only seen less than a handful of people over the last two and a half months.  And unlike 2010, or any of the years, I actually do know people who have contracted Covid19, and at least one person who has died from it.

So yes, this is one time, I must take this type of situation differently than before.  Not fearmongering.  And my hope, that at some point, we get through this, and like the other years, I have not been exposed to Covid19.  I know that I have done all that I can.

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