Support Group for Immunocompromised Students Helps Them Navigate Remote Learning

The question of whether to go back to school amidst Covid-19 has been a debate across the country. Many universities have seen surges in cases, many involving students in Greek life. Some schools that began fully open have now begun postponing in person classes.

There were promises to wear masks, socially distance, sanitize, and various other precautions. But on university campuses, these are not foolproof.

This is made harder because college students don’t want to just go to class and go back to their dorm. They want to socialize.

We all have to face the hardship of a lack of socialization, but this inconvenience is worth the lives we can save by doing so. Not following protocol is essentially a disregard for those with medical conditions that make them extremely susceptible to the virus. It will take a community effort to stop the virus from spreading.

Support Group

Cameron Lynch goes to William & Mary. She is diagnosed with celiac disease, muscular dystrophy, and Type 1 diabetes.

She finds it hard to be at home all the time. Her room is small so its hard to even find space to workout, and she’s in pain frequently. She has decided to take all of her classes online due to her condition, however not all of the classes she wanted to take were offered that way. She had to completely change her schedule around.

Thankfully, she has been able to maintain her internship at the Disability Rights UK, which is an advocacy organization.

Camryn decided to start a support group for students living with chronic conditions in the time of Covid-19. She got this idea after one of her posts on Instagram lamenting about online classes received a high level of notice. Dozens of people commented sharing their stories about school during the pandemic.

The support group now serves as a place for students all over the world to discuss their new options, lament over the activities they cannot do, rant in their frustration, and complain about policy. It has given them a space to discuss how they are feeling about these new challenges with people who understand.

Samantha Price goes to the University of Mary Washington. She helps Camryn to coordinate the meetings, and also has Type 1 diabetes herself.

Cameron and Samantha wrote a letter to the leaders of colleges in Virginia with the request that all classes have an online option. The letter explained that those who are more at risk for Covid-19 have more apprehension about in-person schooling. Not all schools listened, and those who are immunocompromised have now been forced to choose new courses that they can take online.

The Students

Madisyn

Madisyn Hess lives paralyzed from the waist down. Her diaphragm is also partially paralyzed. That means any type of respiratory illness, like the flu and pneumonia, could be very dangerous for her.

She goes to school at Christopher Newport in Virginia, which started school this year on a hybrid system. Some classes are in person and some are online. Madisyn lives off campus and has had to turn down invitations to parties and get togethers with her friends.

She explains that it can be lonely, but she knows its important. Thankfully, she’s found something that has helped her.

Madisyn has found a group of other women like her who are not able to be social, or are unwilling to, due to an underlying condition. The support group meets each week via Zoom to talk about how they are navigating life. Madisyn explains how nice it is to be able to talk to people who understand what she’s going through.

Cassandra

Cassandra Paiz goes to Bryn Mawr. She is also a part of the support group. She is diagnosed with fibromyalgia and asthma. She is thankful the group gives her space to vent and share feelings with a community who gets it.

Hannah

Hannah Hardiman is a senior at the University of Virginia who lives with a suppressed immune system due to a medication she has to take. The school has documented over 280 cases in the last month. She is living on campus with three roommates who are strictly adhering to guidelines.

Hannah explains, like the others, that the support group Camryn made has helped her to settle into this new normal. Each week she is able to unwind, ask advice, and vent to people who get it.

In this strange time, we must rely on the support of others. Remember that no one is alone in this, even those facing rare diseases amidst it.

You can read more about this support group here.

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