I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
March 23, 2020
Here’s something I’ve never shared with you before: I have a child with an autoimmune disease.
It’s something I haven’t written about because like many autoimmune diseases, it’s an invisible illness. Although my child has struggled and life since diagnosis hasn’t been easy, you probably wouldn’t have any idea my kid had anything going on right now unless you know them — or us– very well. The disease can be controlled with immunosuppressant medication and my child will, if all goes well, lead a mostly normal life, most of the time. There’s never been a reason for the whole world to know about my child’s medical status — at least until now. Now we are in extraordinary times. And now, with my child’s permission, I’m writing about it.
If you’re anything like I was before my child’s diagnosis, when you think about someone who’s ‘autoimmune compromised,’ you picture a person who’s noticeably ill. Perhaps homebound or bedridden. And sometimes, that’s the case. But often, as I’ve learned, it isn’t. Millions of Americans have one of more than 100 autoimmune diseases, and a huge number of them are functioning well enough with the right medication to at least appear to be perfectly healthy. As people in our circle have learned about my child’s illness, they’ve shared their own autoimmune disease stories with us and we’ve been surprised at how many people are affected. They are doctors. Nurses. Lawyers. Celebrities. Journalists. Bestselling authors. Teachers. Comedians. Moms and dads. Professional athletes. Musicians. They are all ages and come from all walks of life. If I named a few of them right now, you’d be shocked. You’d have had no idea.
And right now, all of these people — and their family members — are really, really worried.
Coronavirus, as you know, carries a greater risk of complication for people with autoimmune diseases. And people with diabetes. And people who’ve received chemotherapy. And people who’ve had a transplant. And people with asthma, like me. You probably know many people in these categories, whether you realize it or not. You probably work with them, attend church with them, do business with them, live next door to them. You may not be worried about getting coronavirus, but this is about more than protecting you. This is about protecting them.
In order to keep our child safe (not to mention myself), my kids and I have temporarily moved in with my parents in Atlanta so that we can essentially seal ourselves off from the virus right now as much as humanly possible. We are living in the downstairs apartment where my grandmother used to live, completely separated from everyone else. We do not leave the house except for walks and playing in the yard. We have groceries delivered and left outside along with packages, and I thoroughly wipe everything down before bringing it in.
Meanwhile, Dennis has stayed behind in Nashville. As a news reporter, he has to go out in the community every day for his stories, putting himself at risk — and he’s doing it for us. That’s hard. It is very, very difficult to be apart, especially when we have no idea how long this will last. My daughter will almost certainly celebrate her 16th birthday here, and this makes me really sad. I’m trying very hard not to dwell on the difficulties, though — We’re all going through tough times, in many different ways and for many different reasons. I’m choosing to focus instead on how fortunate we are to have generous extended family and the means to self-isolate and keep our at-risk child safe. Dennis and I have spent years building the kind of relationship and family dynamic to withstand this and I believe we’ll come out the other side stronger and more resourceful and even more grateful for each other and all we have.
We are far from alone in our situation. I’ve seen so many stories of families like ours — of parents who’ve had to send their immunocompromised kids to stay with grandparents and live for months apart from their family. Immunocompromised mothers who’ve had to move in with a caretaker and away from their children until this is over. Husbands who’ve had to move out because they work at a hospital and don’t want to put their family members at risk. Immunocompromised singles who’ve now lived in isolation for a few weeks and are fighting the depression that can come with being completely alone for an extended period of time, with no end in sight. These kinds of things are happening all around you, whether you know it or not.
I need the rest of you to know something if you haven’t figured it out already.
The more you insist on ‘living your life,’ on going to the supermarket and Costco when it’s crowded, keeping your non-essential business open, having friends and extended family over, working out at the gym, letting your kids play with the neighbors, allowing your teens hang out with their friends because, as one mom put it in a post I read yesterday, “What are you gonna do?”, the longer you are keeping many, many people out there in isolation, apart from our loved ones. Is it really so much to ask you to just stop these things for a little while so that life for ALL of us can get back to normal as quickly as possible? Somehow, I don’t think it is.
A number of you have asked why coronavirus is different from the flu. For us, it’s like this: Everyone in my family gets a flu shot each year, as soon as they’re available. And when any of us run a fever, we go to the doctor right away and get tested for flu. When one of us tests positive for flu, that person takes Tamiflu, and the rest of us take it preventatively. So I don’t worry too much about the flu. We are likely to get a milder version of it because of the flu shot and we can treat it with medication because we always get tested for flu right away each time we get sick.
There’s no shot to prevent coronavirus. There’s no treatment once its contracted. There’s nothing we can do except try very hard not to get it. And if one of us does get it, all we can do at that point is pray it doesn’t become serious. That’s the difference. That’s why it matters.
And one more thing, while we’re on the subject — When you buy all the things at the grocery store, it means that countless people who are relying on grocery delivery right now aren’t getting what they need. I have to schedule a delivery five days in advance right now and if an item is sold out, I can’t go to three other grocery stores to get it. We simply go without. My last delivery came without the eggs, sandwich bread, sausage, cookies, Brussels sprouts, butter, chicken, and countless other things I had ordered. We can’t just order from another grocery at that point. We have to wait at least five days, try again, and hope at least some of the things we want and need show up. As some of you know, because of our situation, I started preparing for the possibility of quarantine over a month ago, stocking up slowly over a period of several weeks, so we have enough, for now, to make it work — but I know many people out there do not.
Dennis talked to employees at a Nashville grocery yesterday who had many stories of people buying every possible thing they could get out the door with — One man, for example, came in recently and bought all 85 cans of chili on the shelves. I think about this and want to cry with frustration. Did he really need all 85 cans of chili? Please think about people relying on deliveries right now the next time you’re at the supermarket. There really is enough food for everyone if we all buy a normal amount for our families.
And if you have extra toilet paper or disinfecting wipes or hand sanitizer, would you please consider the people you know who are probably in isolation right now and call or message them and ask if they could use it? Things are scary enough for them without worrying about what they’re going to use when the toilet paper runs out, or how they’re going to disinfect their surroundings at a can’t-be-missed medical appointment or treatment in a few weeks.
We can do this, y’all. We can get through this if we work together and show kindness and compassion and generosity. I truly believe that. I’ve seen it happen during a flood and a tornado here in Nashville. I know what we’re capable of. Let’s do the hard things now and get this over with. And let’s love each other as we go. Love wins, even here. Even now.
It has to.