Why Lifting COVID-19 Restrictions Has Me Worried

Jennifer van Amerom avatar

by Jennifer van Amerom |

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I have a theory: I’m convinced you can scream (almost) anything at a baseball game. The more obscure the cheer, the greater it is.

“You call that peanut butter?!”

“Turn ’em upside down!”

“Let’s go, captain! Take ’em out to sea!” (This one is way more fun when said in a pirate voice.)

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I used to also holler out song lyrics or titles just to see if another fan would call me out.

“Crazy little thing called love!”

“I just wanna close my eyes!”

“It’s raining men!”

If they have caught it, they’ve never said anything.

COVID-19 Restrictions | Neuromyelitis News | Jennifer gives her husband, Mike, a kiss on the cheek during a Toronto Blue Jays home opener in 2015. Both are wearing Blue Jays jerseys.

Jennifer and her husband, Mike, attend a Toronto Blue Jays’ home opener in 2015. (Courtesy of Jennifer van Amerom)

Attending the home opener of the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team every year used to be a tradition for my husband, Mike, and me. Mike and I always think of the first baseball game of the year as the real start of spring, not what the calendar tells us. There’s something about the smell of popcorn, sticky floors covered in beer, and 50,000 cheering fans that feels like the start of warmer weather.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure I’ll get to go to another game for a while. As an immune-compromised patient, it suddenly feels too risky to attend anything with a large crowd.

Self-talk

It’s hard to explain the anxiety I feel about going outside now. I try to self-talk the anxiety away with logic. I remind myself that I’ve had neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD) for over a decade, and it isn’t new to be extra careful when I’m around people. I remind myself to be grateful that medication exists to shut down my immune system, which is confused and attacks its own body. I tell myself I’ve fought and recovered from common colds that landed me in the ER, stomach bugs that caused sudden weight loss, and months of paralysis, so I can do it again.

But there’s very little logic when fear is involved.

I’ve already been sick one too many times in this lifetime. I’ve already prayed for my life, begged doctors to end it, and struggled every day with the physical challenges of a disability. So while I try to put on a brave face, truth be told, I’m always a little scared that today I’ll get stuck in a hospital again. Knowing we’re in a sixth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic does little to calm my nerves.

Vaccines don’t really work on me

Full disclosure: I am on #TeamVax. I am triple-vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, and as soon as my specialist gives me the green light, I’ll head to the nearest clinic and request my fourth dose.

However, there aren’t enough data to suggest the vaccine works for patients like me. My specialists are confident I have some protection, but exactly how much is currently anyone’s guess. Immune-suppressant medications reduce the efficacy of everything, including vaccines, because they can’t discern what is good or bad within the body.

It stands to reason that I lack any meaningful coverage. That’s why doctors request that patients have all of their vaccines up to date before starting any course of medication.

Long lockdowns and masks

I live in Toronto, the city that’s been locked down the longest in North America. Trust me when I tell you that going stir-crazy is a real thing. I am against lockdowns because I’m not convinced they work, but I am also in favor of maintaining mask mandates at least a little longer. I know that being pro-mask isn’t a favorable opinion for some, but the way I see it, neither is getting sick, becoming a long-hauler, or dying.

It’s really confusing to hear an immune-suppressed patient say they are against some form of public health protocols. More measures should mean more protection, but I don’t believe that necessarily has been the case everywhere.

Society at odds

What frustrates me the most is how society struggles to separate healthcare choices from political views. Or how we’ve forgotten that humans can be rational thinkers and complex beings. Being pro-vaccination and pro-mask doesn’t automatically mean I am also pro-lockdown. In my opinion, public health protocols do not need to be mutually exclusive to make a difference.

Last Friday, almost 45,000 fans attended the Blue Jays’ home opener. The province of Ontario lifted mask mandates on March 21, so most fans in attendance at Friday’s game didn’t wear a mask. This is despite research showing that doing so would help to blunt the sixth wave we currently find ourselves in.

Ontario is currently reporting an average of about 3,600 new cases per day, a steady rise in the infection rate. It seems like people are either all in on protecting themselves, like my friend who refuses to go out in public, or they’ve given in to the mentality that they’ll eventually catch COVID-19 anyway, so why bother trying to stay safe?

I’ll never get to be as decisive as the average healthy person. Instead, I’ve concluded that life entails risks, and those like me who have NMOSD face a little bit more risk. If we’re to continue living, we should do so, but we should also be careful about it.


Note: Neuromyelitis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Neuromyelitis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD).

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