As someone who received a kidney transplant at age 17, like many people struggling with COVID-19 today, I spent my time recovering in an isolation room in a hospital in California. Fortunately, the transplant was successful. My dream of living a ‘normal’ life as a teenager was never close to being reality and I missed several months of school while recovering. At first, teachers and administrative officials were really helpful and coordinated work to keep me busy, but quickly it became more challenging for the school to accommodate me and I wasn’t receiving equitable access to education in the process. As a result, I went back to school early so I didn’t need to repeat my junior and senior year. I missed the hallway interactions with my classmates and was ready to get back to “normal” life at all costs or whatever normal means to an young adult with an pre–existing condition, even if my doctors and parents were wary of it.
Despite a cautious return, my compromised immune system could not handle the additional strain of a large high school environment. I caught the common flu, which posed a serious threat to my immune system and was taken to the hospital and placed in a shared hospital room instead of isolation. Looking back now, I know so much more and wish I could have asked for a different room, a different situation or anything that did not lead to the situation that I had to experience. As my condition continued to worsen, the doctors realized I had caught H1N1, a subtype of the flu which had caused global pandemics, like the Spanish Flu of 1918 and the Swine Flu pandemic of 2009.
I will never know when or where I got the H1N1 strain exactly, but I’ve sorted out some of those emotions from how my situation was handled now. I was frustrated that despite my best efforts, I was back in the hospital and dealing with another round of isolation – this time, for even longer than before.