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Joint Pain

Chronically Ill in a Pandemic

Written by: RaeNeice Dunbar

From: Georgia, USA

Edited by: Luana Mayer

I was diagnosed with Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis , and a rare blood disorder (HLH) in the Spring of 2018. My body had been trying to communicate that something was wrong with swollen lymph nodes, rashes, and fatigue for months. However, a diagnosis was not made until I was in critical condition and on a ventilator. 

The COVID-19 pandemic struck a week before my second HLH remission anniversary, and I was instructed not to leave my house for any reason by my doctors at the Houston Medical Center. Naturally, I followed their orders and stayed at home. Yet, with every rash, cough, and swollen lymph node, I was terrified. What if I got sick and had to start all over again?

My thoughts were completely scattered with self-awareness and worry for my fellow peers at the clinic. The realization that people were still going through major medical treatments such as chemotherapy was baffling to me. Everyone had a global concern and collective experiences that were now contributing to our daily lives and interactions, having to stay at home for instance. Therefore, we all assumed that life had paused for everyone else as well. Clearly, we were wrong. The immunocompromised were overlooked, people continued to go against COVID-19 regulations, and finally, a year later, I truly understand the impact of people’s actions. On countless occasions, I heard others saying, “if you’re healthy, you’ll be fine!” but the thing is I’m not and, medically, I never will be fine. My body has done its damage, and every blood test for the past three years has made that distinction very clear and I am not the only one. 

Globally, one in three adults are chronically ill, thankfully I was diagnosed at a young age and I am able to receive proper medical treatment but many are not as fortunate. I hope that one day we will be acknowledged but for now, taking steps to properly vaccinate communities to the point of herd immunity is substantial.

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