The Scary Aftermath of Being Sick
As I write this, I am recovering from my second bout with COVID-19. Thanks to the vaccine, this was a far different experience than my first time fighting the virus at the very beginning of the pandemic (it is no stretch to say that it nearly killed me).
My COVID-19 experience with MS
I may have gotten through this most recent fight with COVID, however, as someone with an autoimmune disease, the real scary part is just beginning. My disease, multiple sclerosis, causes my immune system to attack my own body (specifically, the lining around my nerves, interrupting communication between my brain and the rest of my body). So anything that can get my immune system really going can have a profound impact on me. In addition to the casualties of the pandemic, those whose immune systems become triggered, have also been directly and severely affected by the virus.
Getting sick isn’t simple for me
When MS has caused me the most damage, it has generally been following some sort of immune response (viruses, injuries, various other sicknesses). In these cases, my immune system takes care of what it should and then doesn't stop. Instead, because of MS, it continues the fight, but against my nervous system. I can pinpoint most of my symptoms to the exacerbation that caused them and to the illness that preceded it. My initial problems with my legs followed a bout with meningitis. Numbness on my right side following a fight with pneumonia. Numerous cognitive problems came after a lingering cold sore. Blurred vision the aftermath of a nasty summer cold. I could go on and on, the point is that it’s typically been moments that have revved up the immune system that has eventually led me to disability.
This is why any sort of virus, like COVID-19, is such a huge deal to people like me. Someone like me may get COVID and it may be mild or even asymptomatic, but the real concern for me is: what happens next? Will my immune system keep the fight going once COVID is gone?
The real concern is the future
Thankfully, my recent fight with COVID-19 has been a short one. The vaccine gave my immune system a blueprint on how to fight the virus so its response could be more of a quick surgical strike than a lengthy carpet bombing. Minimizing the effort and time my immune system needed surely helps my chances, but in no way does it mean I'm out of the woods. Unbeknownst to me, my immune system may still be cranking away, turning its attention to the myelin around my nerves now that COVID is gone. I won’t really know until I’m in a full-blown exacerbation, at which point I’ll have to rely on steroids to shorten the experience and minimize as much damage as possible. Make no mistake though, at that point, some irreversible damage will already have been done.
The importance of protection and prevention
This behavior my immune system exhibits because of MS is a big reason why it’s super distressing that this most recent variant of COVID-19 can be asymptomatic and spreads like wildfire. People will have it and spread it and not even know it. It's also why it's upsetting that so many places are shortening quarantines and procedures. While this variant 'seems' less harmful, the spread of it can have profound repercussions for someone like me. COVID-19 is a problem not only for the people that have suffered bad symptoms from it but those whose other conditions become affected by it. For many people, the real problems caused by the virus will occur long after they've beaten it.
Thanks so much for reading and feel free to share! As always, I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below!
Were you misdiagnosed with something else before receiving a MS diagnosis?