Yes, this is serious. Yes, you have to be careful. I’m not downplaying the threat the coronavirus poses, but it’s not the end of the world. If anything, everybody now understands people living with chronic illness better.
Wash your hands
When you live with chronic illnesses, in my case several autoimmune dseases, you always have to think about your health. Washing hands is a number 1 priority. Yes always, not only when there is a coronavirus on the loose. When I travel I have my hand sanitizer with me. And when I fly, I sanitize my hands after I’ve touched the little boxes you have to put your stuff in when you go through customs. Because those are hardly ever cleaned.
I try not to touch things unnecessarily, be mindful of where I put my hands, what I touch and to not rub my eyes or touch my nose or mouth.
I can’t believe I even have to mention this, but wash your hands after going to the bathroom, with water and soap. Apparently that’s a thing not everyone does.
To go or not to go?
I’m always conscious about going to events. Not even big events; I’m talking birthday parties, dinners, bbq’s, anything that involves a group of people being in one place. I weigh how well my health is at that given moment before I go. And to be honest, I don’t often go.
When someone comes to visit me, kisses me on the cheek (that’s what we do in Holland and in Spain) and right afterwards tells me they are not really feeling well, I am livid. This means that I can be infected and now will be bed bound for at least two weeks. The chance of this happened is quite big since my immune system doesn’t work properly.
This goes the other way around too. Therefor when I don’t feel well, I will cancel engagements. I don’t want to infect someone with whatever I may have. And believe me I catch a lot of stuff, since my immune system is not the best.
Physical attendance is manditory
When I was in university, at some point I wasn’t able to physically attend the mandatory amount of 80% of classes. This was because I had to go to the hospital every four days for various tests. Not because I partied too much the night before and simply didn’t want to go. Nevertheless they failed me in a specific class three years in a row, due to lack of attendance. Even when my grades were up. In the end I stopped going to university because it was impossible for me to get my diploma with these rules in place.
Then I went to work jobs. Yes, I say jobs – plural. Because I couldn’t keep a single job, due to “lack of interest”. That means I called in sick too often, they thought I was close to burn out or simply not interested in the position. When that was the opposite of what was happening. It was just hard to physically get to the office every single day.
In interviews I always asked about the possibility to work from home. Every single time they assured me that was an option. Every single time it was not an option for me, for various reasons. None of which I agreed with, but they hide behind company policy.
In a matter of weeks everybody in the world suddenly knows about washing your hands, being careful to not infect someone by keeping your distance, not touching your face, cleaning surfaces in public places and not have gathering of people.
Suddenly everybody can work from home, and it’s even company policy to work from home during the coronavirus time. “Stay safe!” people say.
Where were the stay safe remarks when I needed to stay safe? When I needed to work from home? When I needed to be able to pass a class without attending 80% of the classes physically?
The whole world now knows what it’s like to live with a chronic illness, and to be home bound. Unwillingly.
Going forward, I hope this moment in time stays fresh in everyone’s memory, and people will treat others with a chronic illness with more compassion, understanding and kindness. And make accommodations. We know it’s possible. You have all proven it now. The job ahead of us now is to make it last.