by Ana Swartz
I belong to the group most at risk of suffering a more severe form of COVID-19, yet I feel safer now than I did before. Here’s why.
What it means to belong to the group most at risk
I’ve had a kidney transplant in 2018. That means I have medically related immune deficiencies. Just like everyone with a weakened immune system – elder people, people with chronic or autoimmune diseases – I am at a bigger risk of suffering a more severe form of any disease.
Catching the flu, food poisoning or other infectious diseases can all mean a potential threat to me or my kidney. So, the first thing you’ll learn after getting a transplant is how to protect yourself from those risks.
How I used to protect myself
Protecting myself meant doing exactly what the World Health Organization suggests doing now to protect yourself:
Wash your hands frequently
I wash my hands whenever possible but especially before eating. Also, I always have a sanitizer in my purse in case I can’t wash my hands when I’m outside.
Maintain social distancing
I keep a distance from people that show symptoms. Also, I ask all my acquaintances and colleagues to please keep a distance when they know they are sick. I avoid going to places like clubs, concerts, cinemas where I can’t keep a distance. Going to these places is always a trade off between living a happy life and feeling safe. I am not going unless it means a lot to me and I feel 100% healthy and fit to fight any disease that might come my way.
Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
This one is hardest to do. I’ve only become aware of this again when COVID-19 appeared. I sanitize my hands often. But to get rid of this habit is a whole different task. As a woman it might help to put make-up on. You can’t touch your eyes and mouth when you wear make-up or else you end up looking like a clown.
Practice respiratory hygiene
To practice respiratory hygiene usually means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. To me it also means to always have sea water nasal spray and cough drops in my purse. This way my respiratory tract less prone to contracting a disease.
What I couldn’t protect myself from pre COVID-19
With all these things that I could do to make sure I was safe, there was one thing that remained my biggest risk: other people. Colleagues who went to work with heavy fever and coughs, friends who thought nothing of visiting me with their stomach flu, the mandatory hand shake when you meet someone. And not to forget my son who spent at least six hours in a room full of other students and teachers every day.
Why I feel safer now since COVID-19
COVID-19 is no bigger threat to me than any other infectious disease. Not that I’m a doctor or really know the statistics for people with a transplant. But I feel no way more threatened by COVID-19 than I already felt by the seasonal flu, pneumonia or food poisoning. The biggest chance of this health crisis is that people are now more aware of how they’re affecting others.
I feel safer knowing
- there can only be a certain amount of people in the super market at the same time
- people wash and sanitize their hands regularly
- schools and workplaces have to look for new ways to make sure diseases can’t spread quickly
- shopping ventures, public transport and buildings are being disinfected regularly
- people wear masks or at least don’t cough and sneeze my way when they’re sick
- there is awareness of the importance of social distancing
Many infections could have been avoided had everybody practiced these things before. I hope in the future some of these habits will remain. They are small and simple tasks that can make this world a bit safer for you and especially for people like me.