While the dangers of severe illness from COVID-19 are serious for everyone, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says the risk for complications is higher among older adults, people who are pregnant and people with chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems.
That is creating new challenges for people like Halle Williams, who has a rare autoimmune vascular disease and has been living with end-stage renal disease for three years, which they treat with home dialysis.
“I know it’s scary for everybody – it’s certainly scary for me,” said Williams, who listed fears about the global economy and supply chains above worries about their own health.
But the challenges that Williams and others hoping for a kidney transplant are facing have been heightened by the coronavirus pandemic.
Masks are in short supply. Many kidney transplants have been postponed. And people are worried about access to life saving medication and supplies – though that aspect of treatment has not been affected yet.
Williams would normally wear three masks in a day of home dialysis. “Now I’m down to one mask per week,” they said.
In kidney disease support groups on Facebook, participants have reported that their scheduled transplant surgeries are canceled. Williams asked their nephrologist about these tales.
“She said for now living transplants are postponed indefinitely,” Williams said. “A living donor kidney, theoretically you can postpone that to when this is over. But a deceased kidney – you can’t save it.”
So transplants from deceased donors are still proceeding, on a case-by-case basis.
For now, supply chain disruptions that have affected some medications and supplies are not affecting the materials Williams relies on for their dialysis treatments.
People who are concerned about protecting vulnerable people should heed public health warnings and take precautions, they said.
“Be extra careful – maybe to the point where you feel you were being too careful,” Williams said. “You can worry later about if you were stupid and overreacting, when everybody you know is alive and well. But I’d rather take all of the precautions and do my best to save everybody.”