As schools across the country wind down for the summer, parents everywhere are lamenting their children’s loss of normalcy. Children and teachers alike are distraught that they were unable to say goodbye face-to-face, unable to hug their friends as they bid farewell for the summer, unable even to clean out their own desks or classrooms.
We get it, really we do.
Grace’s disease affects her ability to fight off infections. In particular, her B-lymphocyte cells are extremely low, meaning that she lacks the kind of cells that are specifically designed to fight bacterial infections. It’s obvious to anyone around her that she’s prone to infections; brief moments of contact with dirt or the outside world can turn into hospitalizations practically overnight.
Her T-lymphocyte cells, the ones that fight viruses, are not compromised; in fact, she seems to get fewer viruses than many kids. But when she gets them, it takes her longer to recover. That’s in line with her slow healing ability in general. Broken bones heal slowly, cuts heal slowly, and she heals from viruses slowly. Most people don’t know that she is not immunocompromised in regards to viruses; they see how quickly she gets infections and understandably assume that she is prone to any illness.
Because of Grace’s apparent immunodeficiency, people are taking extra precautions around us during this COVID-insanity. Chad and I definitely appreciate the concern of our friends, but Grace is less appreciative of the consideration. She is an extremely social person, and the lack of in-person interactions is driving her crazy. She needs people. She needs to talk and talk and talk, to play and have fun and interact. This isolation is so tough for her.
Last weekend, Jackson was able to spend some time with his BFF. It was absolutely rejuvenating for him—he was visibly more relaxed after interacting with a friend. Grace, however, has not had that opportunity. We don’t even know how to contact her BFF; it was difficult to connect even before the pandemic, and now it’s basically impossible. Grace has no one. She’s so lonely.
We go through many periods of time where we are isolated, where we stay away from schools and other people in order to keep Grace from getting sicker. Those are easier for her to stomach, partly because she’s usually quite sick and lacks the energy to do much playing. But this unprecedented time of quarantine and isolation is too much for her. She’s a kid with little impulse control, little regard for consequences. All she knows is she wants to play with a friend RIGHT NOW. And she has no one.
People all over the country—all over the world, really—are going through this at the same time as us. People all over the country are feeling the pinch of isolation. People all over the country are sad and lonely. People all over the country are suffering.
But in our house, there’s one person in particular who is feeling worse than the rest of us. She’s so lonely. To her, this prolonged isolation is just one more symptom of her differences. One more way in which she’s far from normal. One more way that she can’t be like others.
Eventually, the isolation will end. No one knows if it will be weeks, months, or years. No one knows what the world will look like once we all reintegrate into society. No one knows how many people will be lost; today, our country reached the grim milestone of 100,000 dead. But most people will recover. Most people will rejoin society, reunite with their friends, reestablish the connections that are so dearly missed.
I hope that someday, Grace will be able to, too. I hope that someday, her piercing loneliness will end.