Posted on: May 4, 2020 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

By Deana Elhit, JRN 111 Student

The coronavirus has the whole world in a state of fear. Although we are all vulnerable to being contaminated, those who are immuno-compromised are at higher risk because their immune system is too weak to fight off viruses.

According to CNN, about 3 percent of the population is immuno-compromised, which translates to about 7 million people. 

One infected person can infect 59,000 people, according to an article in Business Insider. Although those with stronger immune systems are expected to recover, people who are immuno-compromised are filled with uncertainty, since we could not deal with life-threatening complications. Here are the stories of people most in need of protection. I know because I am one of them.

Deana Elhit
Writer Deana Elhit and her father are both immunocompromised due to heart surgery.

To all those not taking this seriously, I say think about those who can’t afford to get sick. Think about how this will affect the people in your community. Think about us. 

Deana Elhit

Deana and Marwan Elhit

Self-isolation isn’t a new thing for me. Growing up, I missed a lot of school. At one point in middle school, I had to Skype my classes for two months. 

Although the isolation is familiar, the stress of living through a pandemic with a weakened immune system is new and frightening. 

At age 6, I was diagnosed with heart conditions and a blood condition, along with asthma and pulmonary hypertension. At 7, I had a heart transplant, meaning aside from being immuno-compromised, I deal with weakened organs as well. 

Since I was little, preventing germs has been my family’s way of life. Three out of five members in my household are immuno-compromised, creating a bigger risk during this pandemic.

Due to our weakened immune systems, we could not only catch the virus quicker, but also stay sick longer. If we do get sick, it could develop into a more serious case, and recovering could take longer.

For example, when I had a cold, I spread it to my father. He was then hospitalized for three days and was given blood to increase his immune system. 

My father, Marwan Elhit, 54, received his heart transplant in 2006 due to a rare heart disease called restrictive cardiomyopathy. The lower chambers of the heart stiffen over time, restricting the movement of the heart. The ventricles are abnormally stiff and lack flexibility to expand as they fill with blood. 

After transplantation, we are given anti-rejection medication to suppress our immune systems, so that the body becomes too weak to attack the heart. For example, without this medication, the immune system will believe the donated heart is the flu and will try to attack it.

So suppressing our immune system with medication is important in keeping both of us alive. However, it causes us both to be prone to infections and viruses due to the immune system not being strong enough to fight any disease.

To keep from being contaminated, my father had to close his business. He is self-employed, and repairs computers and cellphones. My grandmother, who also lives with us, is immunocompromised as well due to heart health complications and taking steroids.

“I closed for the security and health of the family,” he said. “If one person is infected, then the whole family will be at risk.”

“Closing the business has affected us financially. In the long run, I might lose customers, especially if it was essential for customer needs.”

At the Elhit house, we are doing as much as we can to prevent contamination. We are constantly using Clorox wipes on surfaces, washing our hands frequently, staying inside our homes, and making sure to protect ourselves with gloves and masks on necessary outings.

We are at the peak of a pandemic. It’s hard knowing that a single trip to the grocery store could bring the virus to my home and spread it to the rest of my family. As the number of cases rises, my fear continues to grow.

To all those who are immunocompromised, I say stay indoors like your life depends on it, because it does. 

To all those not taking this seriously, I say think about those who can’t afford to get sick. Think about how this will affect the people in your community. Think about us. 

No one will notice if we did too much, but it will show if we didn’t do enough.

Miguel Alcordo

Miguel Jaen Alcordo drives into danger every day, delivering supplies to pop-up hospitals during the pandemic.

Alcordo, 26, was diagnosed with Guillain Barre Syndrome, a rare syndrome in which the immune system attacks the nerves. It mainly affects the feet, hands and limbs, causing problems such as numbness, weakness and pain. Although people usually can expect full recovery, it can occasionally be life-threatening, and patients are left with long term complications.

“My GBS was triggered because of a flu shot I was given when I was in boot camp for the Marines and my body went into full paralysis. I couldn’t feel my legs,” said Alcordo. His symptoms can reoccur from influenza viruses, vaccinations and pneumonia, making him at higher risk with COVID-19.

Alcordo doesn’t feel symptoms daily, but the effects can reappear when he feels sick. He has also become prone to getting sick more often.

Alcordo does the best he can to keep himself safe from the coronavirus by keeping his distance. As a truck driver, he isn’t in contact with many people, and he sanitizes his truck before and after use. He also works for a pipe fitting company.

His company delivers for many pop-up hospitals. He constantly is washing his hands, and always keeps a mask at hand. Alcordo immediately showers and gargles as soon as he gets home. He urges everyone to take precautions seriously to keep themselves and others safe.

Candice Turner

With weakened lungs and a child to protect, staying indoors is all Moraine Valley student Candice Turner can do to protect her family from COVID-19.

Turner, 37, was diagnosed with bronchitis and asthma in October 2016, after feeling complications of a bad cold and deciding to visit the hospital. She was diagnosed with pneumonia, and soon after developed bronchitis (inflammation or swelling of the lining of the bronchial tubes, which carry air to and from the lungs). She had experienced chest pain and shortness of breath and had undergone breathing treatments called a peak flow for three months, once a week.

Her test results showed her lungs were not functioning well and needed to be hooked onto a ventilator and have her breathing monitored for an hour. Fast forward to the present day: Her symptoms haven’t much improved and activities can be difficult.

Turner wears masks and gloves when going to public places and carries her hand sanitizer bottle, inhaler, and a spray bottle of alcohol to spray down any bacteria on the surface of items she purchases before they go home with her. She is taking social distancing seriously, and constantly washing her hands has become a daily routine.

“This is no joke,” Turner says. She wants people to “think about all the deaths that have already happened or think about what your carelessness could do.”

People could come in contact with the virus and not know it, she says, so when they go home to be around their family, they put them at risk.

Turner is in her second year at MVCC, working toward becoming a medical assistant. She has plans to apply for the nursing program. Turner was working from home part time to focus on her studies, doing paperwork and payroll for her boyfriend’s family-owned daycare, which has been shut down during the pandemic.