Let’s Talk about COVID-19 and Addison’s Disease

Let’s Talk about COVID-19 and Addison’s Disease

To be perfectly frank, I did not want to write this blog post. A few days ago, I made a joke on Facebook that if I was only going to share one thing about the Coronavirus, it was going to be the suggestion that you should “wash your hands like you just got done slicing jalapenos for a batch of nachos and you need to take your contacts out.” That was going to be my only public statement on this situation. And yet, here I am talking about the virus again, on my blog. This will address my personal thoughts on COVID-19 with Addison’s Disease.

Text reads: "Wash your hands like you just got done slicing jalapenos for a batch of nachos and you need to take your contacts out."
Gotta love Texas.

Information Overload

Do you ever wish there was a time that you could just turn off the media? You want the hysteria and the chaos to just BE SILENT. The only thing you desire is to return to your routine without the constant bombardment of “breaking news” and “new emergencies.”

I want to do that with COVID-19, especially because I have Addison’s Disease.

Frankly, I am tired of every single organization sending out their stance on the virus. I realize this is ironic as I am about to release a blog post on my stance on the virus, so in a way, I am adding to the never ending conversation. But this is a necessary conversation.

Conflicting Narratives

There are two conflicting and competing narratives currently with respect to COVID-19.

The first tells the story of chaos and panic. It is clearly the end of the world, and therefore we must go out and buy ALL THE TOILET PAPER (because apparently we shall need it when we all s*** ourselves).

Photo from my dear friend Michelle in Texas. She explains: “You guys. All of this empty space you’re seeing is supposed to have entire pallets of toilet paper. Stop hoarding toilet paper, the rest of us need to wipe too!”

The second story talks about how this is nothing to fear. The media has over-hyped it and all of these precautions are completely unnecessary.

Which statement is true? Or perhaps, it is a mix of both?

But one this is for certain: This is not “just a flu” and you should not treat it similarly. We do not want to repeat Italy’s mistakes.

H1N1 Swine Flu of 2009

With respect to pandemics, I only faintly remember the SARS outbreak of 2003. However, I do vividly remember H1N1 Swine Flu of 2009. It corresponded with my study abroad in South Korea. You know how Israel is forcing all entering to self-quarantine for fourteen days? I had to do that when I traveled to South Korea in 2009. The university touted it as an “extended orientation for international students.” In reality, it was a quarantine of foreigners.

Photo from 2009. We had daily temperature checks in order to prove that we did not have H1N1.

Once the magical number of days had passed, we were allowed to move into our actual dorms and interact with the rest of the university population. Except, I was not allowed to move dorms. You see, I had actually gotten sick towards the end of our waiting period. I was running a fever.

Do I have Swine Flu?

Although my fever wasn’t technically high enough to be officially Swine Flu, they did not want to take any chances given my Addison’s Disease. My body does not always respond to illness in a typical or logical fashion. Often the first sign that I am about to get sick is my irrational emotions. Only after a few days do the “typical” symptoms show up.

I was taken off campus to a downtown makeshift hospital room dedicated specifically to testing for H1N1. I remember my translator Christina walking up to the main hospital entrance and reading the large sign that directed us to a separate building for Swine Flu testing. It was an overwhelming experience for someone who was already feeling ill. You can read more about it here.

A Second Quarantine

While the university was waiting to officially rule out Swine Flu for me, I was required to be quarantined in isolation for another few days. Once a day, Korean women in a mask would come in and check on me, while launching Vitamin C packages across the table. I was allowed to leave if I wore a mask, but I was to stay away from all public places.

Once the test came back negative, I was allowed to move into my actual dorm.

Picture from a coloring book
Obviously I colored while in isolation. Picture from 2009.

COVID-19 Coronavirus of 2020

This latest outbreak is bringing back all sorts of memories from over a decade ago. I am going to be very transparent with you, my dear Clearly Alive Family: I am struggling.

I am “high risk.”

If I were to catch COVID-19 with my Addison’s Disease, it will not be pretty.

What can I do?

I cannot stop the spread of this virus. And apparently I also cannot turn off the information overload. However, I can try to limit my thoughts and try to not dwell on COVID-19 with Addison’s Disease. I shall be informed, but not panicked. Educated, but not hysterical. Wise, but not outlandish.

I will focus on things that I can control, and release those that I cannot. One of the things I can control is the preparation for self-isolation / quarantine. It is coming, and I am ready.

What can YOU do?

First of all, if you fall into the generally “healthy” category otherwise known as not “high-risk,” please try to stop adding to the noise. But please do not write this off as “just a flu.”

Now the one thing you CAN do is help “flatten the curve.” More and more information is coming out that shows how we can SLOW this by practicing “social distancing:” avoid gathering in large groups to PROTECT the vulnerable, like me. This simulator provides a good visualization of the concept.

This isn’t going to “stop” the virus. And it might seem unnecessary to some. But the point of this is to try to preemptively take off the load from the hospital system. I do not want the US to end up like Italy.

We see what the future can look like, and through YOUR actions, oh “healthy” person, you can influence it and change the trajectory.

This has become even more important as we are learning that people with NO symptoms can and are spreading the virus. To quote Dr. Deborah Birx, the administration’s coronavirus response coordinator, “Until you really understand how many people are asymptomatic and asymptomatically passing the virus on, we think it’s better for the entire American public to know that the risk of serious illness may be low, but they could be potentially spreading the virus to others.”

Can you help “flatten the curve” so that if I do end up in the ER due to my Addison’s Disease, they will have a bed for me?

For my fellow “high-risk” people…

While others are stock piling toilet paper, check all of your medicine. The world is clearly spinning into a panic, so I need you to (calmly) make sure that you have access to your critical medicine. For those with any form of Adrenal Insufficiency, this includes an emergency injection.

Also, it is okay to be scared. Honestly, I am. But I refuse to dwell in that fear and anxiety. Instead, I will take purposeful actions in order to put myself in the best situation possible. This includes self-isolating and social distancing.

In conclusion, I shall leave you with a personal challenge from another blogger: “Monitor both your worries and your words. If you catch yourself leaking out more than a tiny percentage of your personal power on things you cannot personally control, repair that leak. Then find a way to channel that awesomeness to somewhere it will make a difference instead.”

May we all remain Clearly Alive.

Amber Nicole is Clearly Alive