Immunosuppression: Insulin and Isolation

Billy Ferguson/Fourth Estate


I am a Type I diabetic. I have been since I was a year old — I know nothing else. For that reason, it has never really been a defining part of my life: it has always just been there in the background. 

That is, until a few weeks ago. Over the last few weeks, especially recently, I have been constantly weighing the choice between going out or staying in — a choice with deadly consequences for someone in my position.

When coronavirus popped up in China a few months ago, I was immediately engaged on online forums and discussion boards. I read horror stories from Wuhan, but I also saw the steps China was taking to try and contain the virus. What started as a localized outbreak grew into a regional, then national and now global pandemic. 

I had little concern at first, but as the total cases in the U.S. grew over several weeks, I began to realize the gravity of the situation for people like myself and those around me with similar immunocompromising disorders.

For most healthy young people, this virus likely was not a concern until it impacted their daily lives. School closures, sport league suspensions and toilet paper shortages were probably the first signs for most that this was serious. But despite that, catching the virus probably isn’t a death sentence.

For those who are immunocompromised though, this is as serious as life and death. Now, realistically, because I am a young, otherwise healthy individual, catching coronavirus is not an automatic death sentence, but it can cause some serious, long-term complications that my immune system otherwise might have defended against. Instead of relishing the news of an extended spring break, I counted my insulin dosages, contacted my endocrinologist and made a plan of action for staying safe. That plan: isolate as much as realistically possible.

I consider myself lucky that my employer has suspended operations while still offering pay, but there are many like me that cannot yet take off work. And still, we must visit grocery stores, pharmacies and other necessary locations. Each visit creates a real risk of contracting this serious illness.

Despite this life-and-death risk to some of our most vulnerable populations, there seems to be a lack of seriousness for the gravity of the situation among some people. As a result, social distancing guidelines are being broken, which can result in an increased spread of the virus and a higher chance someone’s immunocompromised son, daughter, brother, sister, mother, father or grandparent dies from it.

I am an optimist: I am an otherwise healthy, young 21-year-old runner. But even as an optimist, I am scared. I am scared for myself, I am scared for those I love, I am scared for the millions like me that might meet their maker a little too soon.

We should all come together as a community (not in a literal sense, please) and help protect our most vulnerable. Wash your hands and stay home.