Photo by Rich Johnson via Flickr. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Dear West Chester,
I sincerely hope you’re staying happy, healthy and sane. It’s needless to say that what’s happening now is nothing short of difficult and entirely unprecedented in our own lifetimes and I hope that you are adjusting as best as you can.
I want to write to you today for two reasons: first, to congratulate Brendan Lordan and Julien Padillo on being elected into the positions of Editor-in-Chief and Managing Editor of The Quad Student News Service. These two wonderful people are bright, hard-working individuals that I have no doubt will lead The Quad into wonderful new places once Kirsten Magas and I step down at the end of this semester. Having been the previous Assistant News Editor to The Quad myself, seeing Brendan take both of my places as he’s improved in his writing and journalistic work has been such an incredible privilege to witness and I am incredibly excited to see what he will do going forward.
The next reason is much broader and more obvious, however, it is incredibly personal to me for a variety of reasons. As we move through a global pandemic, staying at home and practicing social isolation is essential not just to our own health, but to the health of others. In this case, social distancing is especially essential to people like my little brother, Max.
I am an older sister of three younger brothers. My brother Max is 17 years old and has Down Syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorder. Having Down Syndrome means a variety of things; the most obvious being intellectual disability. It also means being born with a weak immune system that cannot fight off diseases well as most people can.
Being impacted by both autism and Down Syndrome, he is almost completely non-vocal and does not respond to most basic demands. This means that we cannot ask him to not touch his face, we cannot ask him to cough into his elbow and we cannot ask him to wash his hands. He cannot communicate to us when he is feeling unwell; we have to wait to see the signs ourselves. As a young child, he was hospitalized countless times in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for weeks at a time for respiratory-related diseases that required around-the-clock oxygen treatments that he needed to be weaned off of when his body became dependent on it.
The CDC has indicated that people like my little brother are moderate-to-severely at-risk. It means that, while this disease does not actually kill most people that it affects, my brother is among those people that it very easily could.
He is at risk, even when there is not a global pandemic, and though the CDC does not technically consider those with Down Syndrome as being immunocompromised, my brother’s lung tissue scarring and history of supplemental oxygen dependency from constant, chronic respiratory illnesses places him in the “high risk” category of those who could be more significantly impacted — or even killed — by COVID-19.
I remember the days when he wouldn’t come home for weeks at a time; when his bedroom was packed to the ceiling with hospital equipment necessary for him to stay alive; these are days I would like to keep safely tucked away in the past, as a thankful reminder to the advancements in medicine and hospital care that remain the reason he is still alive to turn 17 in a couple of weeks.
By choosing to stay home, you are helping him and others like him stay alive. You are making sure that when my mom has to go grocery shopping, she does not get it and give it to him. You are making sure that my other brothers will not get the virus and get sick, and spread it to him. You are keeping yourself healthy, and all of those around you who are vulnerable healthy, too.
Stay healthy, and keep your head up. Staying smart and practicing compassion above all else will help everyone get through this until the sun starts shining again. Everything passes, eventually — what devastating moments like these leave behind is up to us.
Samantha Walsh is a fourth-year special education and English major. SW850037@wcupa.edu