Navigating the COVID-19 Pandemic as an Immunocompromised Mama

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Well, I think it’s safe to say that things have taken a pretty wild turn in the past few days. This is uncharted territory for our nation and the world, and it’s easy to give in to the mass hysteria surrounding us. While preparation for quarantine and education about the virus are definitely necessary for flattening the curve, the panic and fear plaguing our country is unprecedented.

To be honest with you, I have tried writing this piece multiple times throughout the past few days, and I always end up revising and waiting because things are changing so quickly. However, I know it’s important to consider the perspectives of many, especially those most at risk, so I will publish these thoughts as of now, knowing things may change again.

I’m going to share why and how I’m preparing and taking this seriously, but that I’m not giving in to the fear, even as an immunocompromised mom. My hope is that each of you can take something from this, whether you are in the “at-risk” population or not. Facts over fear, prep over panic. Let’s do this.

What it means to be “at-risk”

As a person with a compromised immune system, it is extremely unnerving hearing things like, “Most people who get it have mild symptoms! It’s just bad for elderly people and people with chronic disease issues.” Well, yeah, hi, that’s me. I’ve had to relinquish control pretty quickly in this situation. I decipher what I can and cannot control, work towards accomplishing what I can, and release what I can’t. I’ve gotten into this habit of assessing these each morning as soon as I wake up, and that helps manage the anxiety behind it all.

Protective measures

Practically speaking, the general protective measures for us with suppressed immune systems are basically the same as they are for the public: stay home as much as possible, if you must go out, practice social distancing. Wash your hands, refrain from touching your face, keep your distance from those who are sick, isolate if you feel sick. (Make sure to consult your doctor for specific instructions; the above is not an exhaustive list.)

I am physically coping with this by continuing to utilize the practices I use on a regular basis. Health and wellness practices have always been important to me, especially since I do have a reduced immune system, so I have continued on with life as usual in this category, using the practices I already exercise every day.

These include taking elderberry syrup, vitamin D and C, hydrating adequately (more than I even think I should), probiotics, whole food nutrition, and quality sleep. Also, making sure I am taking medication and supplements as usual. We really can keep it simple and keep on keeping on in the ways that we can. It’s never too late to re-analyze and/or add to your own wellness practices. Don’t feel like you’re behind the eight ball; the best time to start is now.

Administrative planning

An important aspect to consider as an immunocompromised person during this time is making sure that I have adequate medical supplies and prescriptions. As a type 1 diabetic, I require a prescription of the hormone insulin to survive, but I also require insulin pump sites, continuous glucose monitoring supplies, syringes, and many other supplies outside of just a prescription of insulin. If you require certain prescriptions or supplies, reach out to your supplier, doctors, insurance company, etc. to inquire about stocking up on this equipment. You may be surprised at what you could get.

Sometimes it takes a doctor tweaking a script for insurance to authorize more; you may need to communicate between a few networks to get things ironed out, and maybe you can’t obtain additional supplies, but it is worth a try! Also, stay tuned to your medication manufacturing companies to be up-to-date on any changes. I have been watching updates from the insulin companies like crazy and so far, there’s no reason to worry. It’s always a good idea to be informed.

The role of emotional and mental health

I’ve also been considering my self-care routines throughout this period of quarantine, and I would encourage you to do the same, whatever that looks like for you. This time is unprecedented and mentally/emotionally taxing. We must find ways to recharge our spirit and get our minds right!

I am a woman of faith, and my faith is singlehandedly upholding me through the emotional and mental side of this panicky period. You have to identify what you can personally lean on to during this time to provide peace and comfort. Adding in to the fear mongering and spread of misinformation is not going to do anyone any good, and will only further perpetuate the chaos. We can be smart about this and stay on top of it without pushing ourselves to the brink of emotional and mental collapse.

There’s a distinction between fear-fueled chaos, and diligent preparedness.

Be a nice human

Get and do what you need to. Go home, love your family. When you are out, remember social distancing practices. Show compassion to your fellow man. Spare a few toilet paper rolls to your neighbor who didn’t make it to the store in time. (Seriously, how much TP does this city use?!)

On that note, be conscious of not giving in to panic buying. Yes, absolutely gather for your family. However, hoarding certain things, especially hand sanitizer, keeps others from being able to prevent the spread of the virus by not having hand sanitizer while others have 10-20+ bottles they’ll probably never use. If you see items with a WIC label, choose a different version of that product so those WIC-specific items can be available for those who need them. Even the smallest choices we make can have a widespread impact for the greater good of our community.

Keeping it in perspective

Mamas, our kiddos are watching us. Our reaction to this impacts how they perceive working through hard, scary things or uncharted territory in the future. We want our children to be resilient, empowered to educate themselves, and able to stand firm in times of trouble. We wouldn’t want our children living in fear and being crippled by anxiety; that’s no way for anyone to live. Let’s use this time to reconnect with our families and try to find ways to enjoy these moments of closeness together, taking it all one day at a time and knowing we’re doing our best. Ultimately, we will make it through this, and we will be more united than ever.

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Audra Smith did not spend her childhood in Alabama, but got down here as fast as she could! Originally from Ohio, Audra met and married her husband (of nearly 6 years now), Brian, while in college, and they decided to move to Alabama on a whim a year after graduation, resulting in the best decision ever made. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Family Studies/Child Development. Audra spent the first few years after the move working for The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa within Early Childhood Education. After years of working in close proximity to Big Al, it’s safe to say now that she is a faithful Tide fan. Audra is an Army National Guard wife due to Brian’s military service and dedication to the great state of Alabama and our country. After enduring years of infertility, Audra and Brian were miraculously blessed with their daughter Nora Jo, who was born in March 2018 in the heart of Birmingham. Audra now resides in the Chelsea area (Sterrett) with her husband Brian, daughter Nora Jo, and living security system (lab/hound mix) Hamilton. When she’s not wrangling and chasing after a spunky toddler, Audra enjoys a good book, just about a million cups of coffee a day, embracing/celebrating the wild ride of postpartum, any DIY crafty project, and being on the water. She initially went to college for Vocal Music, and still enjoys music and singing very much as an outlet (even if she’s mostly singing “Baby Shark” these days.) Audra is passionate about raising awareness for Type 1 Diabetes, as she lives with this disease every day. Audra is currently a stay at home mom who makes it a priority to cultivate side projects related to her passions. She enjoys connecting with other mamas, women, and anyone who needs someone to talk to. Instagram has become a virtual tribe for her, and if you’d like to participate, head on over to @audrashoupesmith whenever you need a dose of “real life.”