Compromised Immunities & Pandemics: Best Enemies
When I was a kid and I would listen to stories of medieval pandemics, I would always envision the world under continuously gray skies. Beneath the obscuring skies, all life without immunities withered away. This led to aptly named monikers such as the Black Death. Over time, we contained or eradicated these "Great" nightmares with the use of aseptic techniques and vaccines. It was a stunning victory for science. Even in its literary moments such as in Albert Camus' The Plague, society was heroically saved from miniature evil by Dr. Rieux's tenacity in the face of absurdity. However, today when my wife and I did our running around, the sky was sunny.
It was like nothing was going on. We knew and know that something was amiss, but on a day this beautiful, nothing's gonna happen... is it?
Nobody needed saving, but as a person with Parkinson's, I knew better than to test fate... didn't I?
Contradictions between the science fiction world & the real world
As a child of the science fiction world, monsters always seemed to like the dark better than the light. Werewolves would howl at the moon. Vampires avoided light like Superman retreated from Kryptonite. Like a silver bullet for the werewolf or a stake through the heart for vampires, their monstrous bodies had no immunities for these remedies.
Most monsters hid under the bed or in closets, though mine hid in a cubby hole (tiny closet) in the attic. Bigfoot (AKA Darryl) does a really good job hiding in the woods, even if people endlessly look for him. Additionally, in nautical literature, the seas howl with storms as leviathans rise from the deep. Jungles close in on unsuspecting explorers. In space, there is infinite emptiness.
On a broad daylight afternoon, we walked nonchalantly from the car to the restaurant, wearing our masks tight to the face as our server explained "the rules to us." The enemies of our compromised immune system could have been anywhere, but we had to escape the confines of Fortress Glass. There comes a time that we needed to be brave enough to come out and play. For a long time, I wondered if I ever would again. Now, I contemplate my appropriate distance between unvetted others.
What happens on a typical Sunday vs now
Normally, a Sunday in August would be a call for all red-blooded American burger-eating sports fans to band together to watch sports. However, every other table was closed. Only a quarter of the restaurant had people in it. Sure, there were cars in the parking lots, but people weren't walking about for fear of lacking immunities. For as beautiful a day as it was, the invisible cryptids were keeping people apart.
Too microscopic to see, many people avoided the risk of encountering this itty-bitty killer. Yes, there's an image for it, but for others, this snowball with red bits on it isn't as scary as a terrorist. In my day, I've consciously taken precautions for both. In October 2001, I didn't go to a concert in DC because of safety warnings. Today, I wore my mask and washed my hands a little extra during my distanced trek into the "safer" parts of No Man's Land.
These days feel like the wild west
Not everywhere is work the risk. A month ago, my wife and I went to an isolated cabin in the middle of Pennsylvania to relax. Along the way, nobody spoke of pandemics except to jest others about believing in them. At the big box store we stopped at, half of the crowd bought groceries without mandatory masks. In other places, people seem to be itching for a fight over being made to wear masks.
I couldn't get out of there fast enough.
Nevertheless, the dangers of this pandemic are described so many ways, it's hard to know what's what, especially when it's "hard" to understand the science. I don't use this to excuse them, but instead, I recognize it as part of the problem. Nevertheless, no matter what people think, up until August 2020 in America, 5.7 million people have come face to face with this monster. Just under 177,000 didn't survive. Personally, I only trust my immunities and precautions so far in all of this.
I don't know any victims directly, but I am 2 degrees away from victims (living and dead). I am 1 degree away from people who tested negative. One of my best friends is testing people for this condition. It's real; whether it kills, maims, and / or fills hospitals. As it jumps body to body, it says, "Who's next? How about you?"
I think about this as I walk into other doorways and see my fellow citizens.
How the pandemic relates to Parkinson's
Like many of you reading this, I have Parkinson's, which means my immunities are compromised. Put simply masses of alpha-syneuclein proteins cling to neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta. Somehow this makes the body's immune system go into protection mode. Since our bodies pack a superhero size punch, we normally go ballistic on the baddies. Here, though, good cells are destroyed and get replaced with Lewy bodies, leading to bad old-fashioned Parkinson's disease.
As previously stated, we people with Parkinson's are more susceptible to situations like COVID-19. I would know. As a kid, I had chickenpox twice (in elementary and high school). For the better part of the past 5 months, I stayed inside. I didn't completely lock myself away, but I've read more books this year than the last 2-3 years. Additionally, I haven't gone walking much. The early days of COVID were too scary and summer has been too hot. Thus, I'm really out of shape and whipped. The socially-distant members-only pool was my saving grace.
My choice as I live through the pandemic
Other than that, my major exceptions other than a socially distant vacation with my wife were a couple of trips to big box grocery and superstores. Now, we have been pickup shopping, where the stores pick out stuff for us. This is genius for people looking to avoid contact with a world trying to rush unsupervised toward herd immunity.
I've had 2 massages, and soon it'll be 3, since they're "not a luxury." Parkinson's rigidity and sciatica necessitate them the same way as doctor and dental appointments. Some things are essential (like that haircut after about 4 months).
I've seen my family a handful of times. I'm also back in a social environment at work. I am isolated in a wall cubicle, where I see people by remote Zoom. From a computer or phone, we yammer professionally. For now, the limited crowds have played nicely, but tomorrow could change this. Sadly, for the bravery I feel to be out, I'm still nervous. Immunities.
Those who believe, those who don't, those who don't care, those who feel they're invincible, and those who want to fight over everything will walk beside people who are justifiably afraid of what they cannot see. I'll be there, too, using my mask, hand-sanitizing, and keeping my distance, wondering what's next.
Making your own choices about the pandemic
Your situation allows you to make your own choices to establish immunities. I hope it allows you to stay safe and healthy and help others do the same.
What does the future hold?
Some day the time will come for all of us to come out and play. I look forward to a day when we can all walk into crowds without a mask, as we hug / kiss / high five one another without fear of a nano-sized beast doing damage. Until then, I'll be cautiously operating in "risk and reward" mode during this pandemic. Immunities, you know.
Do you think there is enough awareness of Parkinson's disease?