How my immunocompromised family changed my perspective on isolation


Emily Girard and her father at Charlie Brown’s, a local Lexington restaurant and bar, before the coronavirus pandemic.

Emily Girard

Students’ lives have become very different very quickly. We’ve all been yanked out of our normal lives and shoved back into our houses lest we contract COVID-19. A lot of people, including me, have viewed this isolation as an extreme inconvenience. We have acknowledged that we ourselves have a low risk of developing serious health problems, and as such, our biggest concern is how to cope with being unable to leave our houses. For those who can’t help but wonder what this whole situation is like for those with a close connection to at-risk individuals, I can provide one perspective.

Last June, my dad was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Since then, he’s been in and out of hospitals. Friday, March 13 was the last day I was able to see him in person, as his hospital went into full lockdown the next day. 

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Now, I love my dad. I don’t know what I would do if we weren’t able to video chat regularly. He hates the quarantine, and we hate it too. We would much rather have him home—if he didn’t have cancer. 

For the past few months, my dad has required extensive care. He spent a few weeks battling an unknown neurological issue that left him unaware of his surroundings. When he finally came around, he was extremely weak. He’s learned and unlearned how to walk several times. It was only yesterday that he showed proof of having an immune system. In the midst of this unprecedented global crisis, where people have come to view friendly get-togethers as harbingers of the apocalypse, neither the nurses nor my family feel comfortable releasing my father.

Additionally, even if his health were a little better and his doctors felt comfortable with sending him home, I know I would not feel comfortable around him. Due to my anxiety, I have had trouble coping with this crisis.

Over the last few weeks, I went from being unable to accept the seriousness of this pandemic to believing I was tracking the disease everywhere I went. It is possible that I adapted these views because I was unable to deal with the fear I held for my dad who, at the time, was in extremely poor health. I have no idea what my family’s situation would be if we were all stuck in the house together, but considering that we would have to manage someone with both physical and related mental health issues, in the midst of a global pandemic, it would most likely be extremely stressful.

This situation isn’t ideal, but we’re making the best of it. When you think about it, my situation is just like everyone else’s; instead of my loved ones being isolated in separate houses, my dad happens to be in the ICU. Even though we’re separated, we’re all being provided for, and I hope that when we do reunite we will all be in good health.