Linder, 34, received the life-changing gift of a kidney from his wife, Emily, in September 2019. He will be on immunosuppressants for the rest of his life to keep his body from rejecting the organ.
“I had no antibodies at all. That was shocking and scary and it sure sucks,” Linder told CNN. “I feel almost as insecure now, if not possibly a little more insecure than I did at the start of the pandemic, if only because I could get it right now.”
The pandemic is not over for many
A new study published last week by the CDC suggests that people with compromised immune systems may need to receive three doses of a coronavirus vaccine and a booster shot to receive the same amount of protection as given by two doses to those who are not immunocompromised. The effectiveness of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines against Covid-19 hospitalization was 77% in immunocompromised adults versus 90% in immunocompetent adults.
For transplant recipients like Linder and some other members of the immunocompromised community, the study showed the vaccine’s effectiveness was lower than that.
Feel freer to go out
For Courtney Hodge, a single mom from outside of Pittsburgh, living through the pandemic has brought her a new sense of clarity, and she said she’s trying to live with less anxiety.
Last year, “I had my whole life reevaluated because you can die so quickly,” Hodge told CNN.
The 39-year-old has asthma and several autoimmune disorders, such as Graves’ disease, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Given how suppressed her immune system is, Hodge worries she might not be able to fight off the damage the coronavirus is doing to a person’s lungs.
“I’m fully vaccinated with the booster, (so) I go out and talk to more people more than I think I’ve done in my entire life,” Hodge said. She said she was boosted in August and would consider a fourth dose If necessary.
Being vaccinated and stimulated has also given Hodge the confidence to feel safe by attending crafts and vendor shows to promote the candy business she started during the pandemic.
“I’m not that anxious and I don’t feel any impending doom anymore,” she said. “Even if I get sick with the vaccine, my chances of dying are not as good without the vaccine.”
She’s shopping again
Embracing life and trying to get back out into the world is also what Danielle Grijalva has been trying to focus on, despite a few people around her getting sick and losing a friend to Covid-19, she said.
Grijalva received her first and second Covid-19 shot in April and May respectively, and she said being vaccinated changed her outlook, allowing her to switch from mostly staying home to feeling safe enough to run errands or see friends.
“Now I can feel comfortable walking in and shopping, and keep my distance,” said the 45-year-old. “I just decided that I’m not going to live in fear.”
California mother of two was diagnosed in 2018 with a pain condition called fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and several strains of ultrasound viruses, which were found in her stomach.
She said she is eligible for her booster shot this month. Anyway, she said she’s happy that things are opening up in the US again and that she enjoys seeing good friends and feeling a little bit normal again.
She still caught Covid-19
But not all the immunocompromised people CNN followed were able to stay healthy and Covid-19-free.
Brittania Powell, a student at Ohio State University, barely left her home for two months last fall or her family encouraged her to come to the polls. in Ohio on Election Day 2020, she said.
Powell was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease lupus when she was 14. She also has an autoimmune disease called rheumatoid arthritis, anemia, and lupus nephritis, causing her kidneys to become inflamed. She doesn’t know if she will wake up with swollen joints or if she will be able to move on any given day.
The 22-year-old said she and the other poll workers tried to disinfect communal surfaces and keep things clean, but some of the people who came to vote were not wearing masks.
“I double masked, although I was wearing gloves, but I still caught (Covid-19),” she said.
Powell felt she had the flu for a week and only coughed for one day, so she didn’t think she had Covid-19 at the time, she said. The following week she was very nauseous and had stomach problems, which forced her to go to the emergency room.
The next morning she said she had a positive test result. The stomach problems stayed with her and she didn’t feel better for a month. Despite feeling sick, Powell said she stayed positive and tried not to stress as she recovered.
She received both doses of the vaccine this spring and said she’s in no rush to get a booster just yet. However, she has a message for other people.
“You won’t know who is immunocompromised just by looking at them,” Powell said. “I would just be considerate of others around you, even if you don’t want to get the vaccine, at least wear your mask. Follow the safety protocols we use so you don’t risk the lives of others.”
She is still concerned about her health
Eileen Davidson, a Canadian writer for an arthritis website, really needs people to watch out for those who may be more susceptible to Covid-19.
The 35-year-old is a single mother with rheumatoid arthritis. She lives with her 8-year-old son Jacob in Vancouver, British Columbia.
“Some people think the pandemic may be coming to an end — it’s not really ending for someone who is immunocompromised,” Davidson said.
In the beginning, the lockdown was a good thing because Davidson said she could relax. But because she didn’t have access to physical therapy and her gym, coping with her chronic condition was difficult.
“I had a flare and there was a lot of stress,” she said. “Even just the stress surrounding the pandemic can put a person into higher disease activity.”
“I worry that my medications that I so desperately need and have gone through so many times to find the right treatment for me, (that there will be) a shortage of it because people refuse to get their vaccine,” Davidson said.
They just want to go back to normal
Among those who are immunocompromised, a common thread is the desire to live their lives. For Linder, the thought of not resuming a slice of normality at some point is overwhelming.
“Not to be able to live a life again I fought so hard to get it and my wife donated part of her body to me so we can live a life together, it just hurts,” he said. “It cuts so deep it’s a pain I can’t explain.”
Linder said a stranger in a supermarket, where Linder goes when he’s mad and just needs to get out of the house once yelled at him that he doesn’t need a mask and that the pandemic is over. Note: That stranger is wrong. Neither of those things is true.
He said he feels “a lot of jealousy, a lot of envy because the message that has been clearly pushed into society now is that it’s like I don’t want to risk death, I just have to stay home and I have to stay in my house forever.” stay,” he said.
Linder dreams of finally going on a honeymoon with his wife — their two-year anniversary approaching in December. That trip won’t happen anytime soon, because they know it’s not safe for him to fly.
For now, he hopes he can see his sister, her husband and his nephew for the holidays. They’re not sure what that would look like, but he said: it would be nice to go on vacation with his family for the first time in two years.
CNN’s Jen Christensen and Jacqueline Howard contributed to this report.