Wheeling Near the Edge

Not everyone shares the same situation. A close-up of the base of a wheelchair.

Not everyone shares the same situation. (Porter Aydelotte/Orange Appeal)

2020 has been a year defined by the coronavirus. According to the World Health Organization timeline of COVID-19, Wuhan Municipal Health Commission had first reported these events on the last day of 2019. From then on, the entire world has been facing an unfeeling monster out of Plague Inc. Thousands have died from the virus itself or in the aftermath of the brutal nature of the virus…and it’s not even close to ending.

The United States is seeing an upward trend in coronavirus cases, caused by various reasons. The pandemic continues throughout the entire world, placing individuals with weakened immune systems on edge. I am among the individuals that have been nervous about these events. Facing an actual threat to my life, it’s something that isn’t easy to deal with.

I’ll break down my situation so that it might give some perspective. I was born with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), a condition that causes the muscles in my body to be weak and continues to weaken them throughout my life. Duchenne only affects males and those that have this condition typically only live into their 20s or 30s. 

I’ve gone from walking at age seven to becoming fully wheelchair-bound at age 12. I am currently 22 years old, still making my way through life, and it hasn’t been an easy journey. Being a teenager and young adult without any underlying issues is difficult enough, but try watching as your body’s strength is sapped and it becomes harder to do activities you enjoy, an ever-growing weakness that haunts you in the back of your mind. 

With this weaker disposition, I’m always on edge with my health concerns. I’ve spent a seemingly endless amount of time in hospitals being shuffled from appointments to surgeries. Every time I get sick, I need to take many steps to protect myself. An example of this would be that if I am sick for more than three days, I have to go to my doctors to prevent my situation from worsening. It’s really nerve-wracking to be in this position, where my health is constantly a struggle to maintain. Back in November, I was sick for an entire month.

I went to my doctor, and he gave me a subscription of strong antibiotics.  I wasn’t getting better, even struggling to continue my college classes. It was rough to make it through the day; it was a truly miserable experience. Not only do I have to worry about my underlying medical conditions, but I have to worry about a viral infection as well. So right now, this is a situation where I want to avoid any chance to become infected by the virus. 

While a natural introvert, I’m not so bothered by the whole quarantine. However, I understand that, for some, this transition has been rough. From the economy struggling to the increased stress of online schooling to canceled trips, it feels like we are trapped.

Even with these wants, the need for precautions and isolation cannot be understated. This is not the seasonal flu; this is a different beast. COVID-19 is a new virus we haven’t dealt with before. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states on their website that COVID-19 spreads quicker than the flu, as well as that this virus is contagious for at least 12 days after infection, compared to seven days with the flu. 

Both of these neglect the fact that COVID-19 is nearly ten times more fatal than the flu; that high of a fatality rate alone makes this virus a threat, combined with a quicker spread and contagion period means that COVID-19 can pose a death threat for people such as my self with weaker immune systems.

I really struggle when people refuse to wear masks or downplay the significance of the pandemic. Look, not everyone is homogeneous in the sense of health. I am part of the minority that is at a greater risk, and I am not alone; there are many others with my same medical condition or those with other medical conditions that put them next to death’s gates.

Look, I understand that not everyone is going to die from the coronavirus. But no one wants to die without a choice. No one wants to lose their family member or friend. It’s easier to think of everyone that isn’t close to you as a nameless face that you’ll never meet personally.  People don’t have the knowledge to understand every situation faced by the seven billion people that live on Earth. 

However, with the information that has been provided by medical organizations and the actual risks it places on people, there is no excuse to not take precautions. 

All these single-minded actions of only thinking of one’s self do is harm more people, resulting in a longer pandemic and greater loss in life. So people can ignore the restrictions and use their rights as United States citizens to bypass medical concerns. They can ignore those at risk because they aren’t one of them.

Ignore the fact that some children will lose their parents and that the last memories of a grandparent are them struggling to breathe. It doesn’t matter because their life means more than those around them.

We need to think outside ourselves during this time of crisis since we are facing the same problems. If we can save anyone’s life, we should be willing to do so. Nothing has more value than our lives, no matter who the individual is. I wanted this to stand as a statement for those at risk. We aren’t just another empty name or blurred face, we are flesh and blood just like everyone else. And we want this end the same as everyone else.