My parents are in their late 70s, early 80s, and they live on a chain of barrier islands in a tourist area. The islands closed to visitors this past Tuesday, but by then thousands of spring breakers and families from areas such as New York, where the incidence of the virus accounts for 5% of the world’s cases, were already on the island. My mom has type 2 diabetes and heart disease. What neither of us have acknowledged in our now daily phone conversations is that neither she nor my father would likely survive this virus or even receive needed medical care if doctors were forced to choose between caring for my parent or a younger person.
My mom is worried about my only son, who has Type 1 Diabetes. So am I. My son and I have been practicing social distancing for a week now. And by distancing, I mean he hasn’t been out of the house or yard, and I have been to the grocery store and physical therapy only. My husband, however, has had to work. He is an attorney, and while the VA Supreme Court has shuttered the courts until at least the end of the month, cases involving incarcerated individuals are to be heard. And some local courts are defying the closure orders and hearing all manner of cases, packing courtrooms daily. So this means my husband has traveled to three different courts in the last week and there were more than ten people in each court room. Because my husband is expected to defend his clients at bond hearings, criminal hearings, and the like, he has also had to conduct jail visits to interview his clients. This means my husband is a ticking time bomb. I feel it is not a question of if but when he will be exposed. And if he brings the virus into our house, our son is incredibly vulnerable because of his diabetes.
The virus is really a double whammy for those living with diabetes. Uncontrolled or poorly controlled blood glucose levels can make one more likely to catch the virus according to a physician who lives with type 1. Once someone with diabetes gets the virus, the symptoms and complications are the same as someone without diabetes. But on top of the scarring of lung tissue and difficulty breathing caused by the Coronavirus, it can also cause complications with diabetes, just like any virus that causes a fever. Fever leads to dehydration, which can lead to high blood glucose levels, which can lead to development of ketones, which can lead to diabetic keto acidosis. I won’t go further because we don’t talk about those other consequences in my house. It sounds like a slippery slope fallacy, except it isn’t. That is what happens when someone with Type 1 gets sick with anything other than a common cold. Those are the risks.
So I am feeling pretty uneasy these days. Every time my husband comes home, I make him shower before he sits down at the dinner table. We all take our body temperatures twice daily, and my son and I have been eating immunity boost vitamins like it is candy.
At some point, we will probably all know someone who has contracted the virus. I pray to god those we know all recover without severe complications. Please stay safe. Practice social distancing–take it beyond what the government has called for, which isn’t enough in my opinion–nor in the opinion of many of those in Italy where the death toll increased by almost 800 in the last 24 hour period. My son and my parents, your grandparents and loved ones, are depending on you.