The emergence of the COVID-19 Omicron variant in the last few months has given me a spike in anxiety. Throughout the now 2-year pandemic, breathing issues accompanying my Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) have heightened my fears of contracting the virus.
This past summer I wrote a column about vaccines at a time when it appeared the coronavirus ordeal might be subsiding into something much less concerning. I warned in that article how lower vaccination numbers could give new mutations of the virus a shot at creating other variants. It’s eerie to see how this did in fact come to fruition recently.
I celebrated another birthday this month quarantine-style with homemade foods and virtual contact with friends. A close friend of mine who had been vaccinated was going to visit me in person. Unfortunately, they had tested positive for the virus earlier that week. It ended up being a good day, but sheltering at home so much again has been taking a swing at my sanity. When people are not heeding the advice of medical professionals to take precautions such as getting a booster shot or wearing masks in crowded places, this has the potential to negatively impact someone like me in an unintended way.
I recently was talking to my therapist virtually about the frustrations I continue to have over these circumstances. One reason for this is the progression of my disease. With DMD there is the unavoidable truth that it has a decent chance to shorten my lifespan. This has made 2 years of quarantine exceedingly painful in that I feel I might have lost some precious time from being out in the world enjoying my life. The therapist shared the frustrations I have.
In the past couple of weeks, I became aware of a friend I have with DMD coming down with COVID. My friend had been vaccinated but needed to go to the hospital for breathing difficulties. This struck a chord in me. I’m concerned about my friend’s well-being and what will happen if I get any form of COVID. Also, it further added to my strong feelings about wishing others would take all of this more seriously.
Read more about Duchenne muscular dystrophy therapies
My writing background has mostly been in sports. I look up to a number of athletes, such as LeBron James, and I have a vinyl wall graphic of him dunking over my bed. He is a role model to me. When I’ve seen athletes who are held in such regard using their platform in a way that can fuel the spread of misinformation about COVID I feel a sense of betrayal. When Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was vocal about using alternative treatments that had not been scientifically proven to fend off the virus, I felt this. I believe someone of his stature saying such things can embolden fans of his to possibly do the same. Again this can ultimately come back to hurt a rare disease patient like me.
My fears over COVID also have affected the mindset I have about receiving medical care. I have seen various specialists throughout the pandemic, but those visits were planned. I’m more concerned about unexpected trips to a medical provider that can’t provide the care I need because hospitals and medical facilities are full, overwhelmed.
As I’ve hinted I would say the most detrimental aspect of my quarantine might be what it has done to my mental health. It’s been like a rollercoaster ride hearing the virus numbers could have peaked, only to later get hit by the next wave of it. Fluctuating between the emotional state of hope and panic is tiring, and that’s the last thing I need with my already fatigued body from DMD.
It now appears that the Omicron variant will soon reach its peak. At this moment, I can’t be certain how this will all look several months from now. I do know that I don’t want to be writing something like this again.