Tag Archives: Covid

The immune system

This is part 2 of my writings on the shot for Covid. You can read the first part here.

To understand how the shot works, it’s necessary to understand the immune system. I am not a doctor, or an expert but all of the information I provide is from my own search for understanding and I encourage everyone to find this information yourself.

The immune system has two basic parts, the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system.

The innate immune system is best understood if you think of what happens if you step on a nail. There’s pain and redness and swelling that happens at the site of the injury. There are many things happening in the area, and all together it’s described as inflammation. This inflammation is protecting you from any number of bacteria or viruses that were on that nail when it broke through the skin. It is non specific, meaning, it doesn’t care if it’s virus or bacteria or what particular kind. It’s there to get to work on any foreign invaders that can do you harm.

The next part of the immune system is the adaptive immune system. This is the system responsible for creating specific antibodies to defend against specific invaders. It’s more complex than that of course, but I won’t go too far down that rabbit hole just yet. The innate and adaptive immune systems work together to keep you safe and healthy.

So to understand a virus like Covid, and how it attacks you, it’s important to understand a bit about these parts of the immune system.

The Covid virus is incredibly small. Only 120 nanometers. For reference, one strand of human hair is 75,000 nanometers. https://www.ocregister.com/2020/04/10/coronavirus-heres-how-small-the-enemy-is-and-how-it-attacks/

These viruses are so small they are aerosolized, which means you can inhale the virus just by breathing around someone who has been infected and is exhaling these particles.

So if you do happen to inhale these particles into your lungs, they have a spike protein we’ve all heard so much about that is able to bind to your cells via ACE2. This means the virus is able to enter any cells that have this receptor. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32418199/

Once the virus has gained entry into these cells it’s able to hijack our own cells and use the virus RNA to get our cells to produce copies that then leave the cell to go on and infect more cells and create more copies of itself so that eventually the new host is breathing out these viral particles too.

But it’s not as though your body just sits there and allows the virus to slowly take over. Your immune system is actually AMAZING. It’s so complex that there are still things we don’t fully understand about it.

Like when your cells get highjacked by the Covid virus, even then they are sending out SOS signals that your body picks up on and reacts to. Your innate immune system and adaptive immune system work together, like all forces of our National defense work together to fight a foreign invader. You have the Army, Navy, Air Force, National Guard and certain special forces, all with different goals and operations with ultimately the same goal of keeping you safe.

Amazingly, everyone has the ability to make antibodies to pretty much any virus. The way your cells can rearrange their proteins to make these specific antibodies is nothing short of amazing. It’s kind of like a lock and key. Your B cells are trying to attack Covid and trying different combinations to find just the right mix. Once they do find the right combination, there is a positive feedback loop that sends out signals telling your immune system “this is working!” And so those B cells start proliferating and producing more and more. Once your adaptive immune system gets going on this, it works with the innate immune system to neutralize the threat.

Even after the threat is neutralized you still have a lot of these specific antibody B cells floating around in your blood. If the same invader tries to attack again, your body is primed to neutralize it much more quickly, often before you even have symptoms.

Vaccines have worked based on how the immune system works. People figured out that milkmaids who encountered cowpox, which caused blisters but was not very deadly, we’re not getting sick with smallpox, which was much more dangerous. Farmers were found to have purposely exposed their families to cowpox blisters and it was effective at keeping them from getting smallpox when outbreaks occurred in their communities.

This was effective because cowpox and smallpox viruses were so similar that the specific antibodies that cowpox produced were also effective at neutralizing small pox.

Eventually, many vaccines used either dead or weakened strains of the actual virus and found that with the right additives they could effectively produce an adaptive immune response without the host having to go through the risk of the actual sickness. And thus, in developed parts of the world, many of these illnesses that caused great injury and death have mostly been eradicated. But it hasn’t been exactly a perfect road. I won’t get too deep except to say that you should look up what happened with the polio vaccine sometime just for a bit of interesting knowledge. Oops. Yep, just like with anything in life, vaccines are not risk free.

Along with some of the best inventions, there has been great cost. Think about the invention of the car and how it forever transformed the way we move. Yet auto accidents remain one of the highest causes of death. Antibiotics, of which the discovery was by pure accident (another fun story to look up) have saved countless numbers of people from early death, yet they have also caused some death by giving rise to antibiotic resistant bacteria.

So when I talk about risks with shots for Covid, it doesn’t mean that I am against the shot. It means I believe in people making informed decisions taking the risks and benefits into account. That is not at all what is happening with these shots and as a result, people are no longer trusting in people and institutions that have had much of the public’s trust for years.

So why is this Covid shot different from other shots? I’ll get into that more next.

Health and research

I know, I know, you’re sick of hearing about Covid. Me too, yet we can’t seem to stop talking about it.

Is this going to be controversial? I don’t know. It seems like just about any topic could be these days. When we politicize every single aspect of life, that’s what’s going to happen.

I’m not into politics. I vote. I read. I have opinions on issues but for the most part, I keep those to myself and am able to listen openly to the views of others that differ from my own. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a politically divided home so I witnessed my parents having polar opposite political views, maybe it’s because I met so many different people over the years through running and I’ve allowed different viewpoints to open my mind (from CEOS and VPS of major companies to the grifters). But I also think as my spirituality has grown, I’ve seen the way that politics very much becomes an idol for some people.

So I come from the standpoint of someone who doesn’t want things to be so politicized and believes there is corruption (a great deal of it) in every level of our government, on all political sides. So hopefully, you understand I’m not pushing an agenda, or a political party or anything of that nature. In other words, I’ve tried to remove any bias. While it’s likely impossible to completely remove all bias, I certainly do my best to go with fact and truth, regardless of whether or not it fits in with my worldview.

Back in March of 2020, there were so many unknowns. By June of 2021 we have learned so much and are still learning.

There continues to be politicization of Covid and even the shot. I’m not going to say v a c because there’s a lot of censorship going on. Lately, the news media has been trying to further divide people by posting that it’s conservatives that are largely hesitant of getting the shot. Yet, I know in my own life this is simply not true. I know lifetime democrats who do not want it, and I also know lifetime republicans that happily got it.

I think what the government and media are failing to realize is that people are so much smarter than they give them credit for. Also, people today in the US have access to more information at their fingertips than ever before in history. Now, not all of that information is credible to be sure, but nevertheless, it’s out there.

So of course the best course of action for the government to take would be to take politics right out of it and give factual information, even if they think it might cause people to not get the shot. It’s honest, and that is how you build trust. It takes years and years to build trust, but its lost in a single moment of dishonesty.

We like to throw around labels and say that people are anti you know what. Is that helpful? Or is it a bullying tactic to shut down honest conversation?

For me personally, I’ve always blindly trusted in the shots and even always got the flu shot. There are a lot of people out there like me and I can tell you a lot of people are now questioning shots in general, because they feel the government has been dishonest with the public. But instead of humbly reassessing, the government and officials seem to be digging in.

What is my opinion on the shot? I think it’s amazing that we were able to get one available so quickly. Obviously, Covid was a huge threat to many people and since the shot became available, the death rate for Covid has completely plummeted. That’s a great thing! Additionally, the science on MRNA has very promising research going into it for very hard to treat cancers and diseases such as MS.

That said, every thing in life comes with risks. The shot is not free from these risks and normally there is a risk/benefit analysis that occurs before taking any drug into your body. That is simply not happening here and the message being sent is “get the shot or you’re selfish”, or “if you have questions you must be anti science and anti you know what, conspiracy theorist”, or the new one “All you Trumplicans are so uneducated, you aren’t even worth the air you breathe”.

These are bullying tactics and thus far they have not been helpful in moving the needle for those hesitant of the shot.

Could you imagine raising your children this way and then being surprised when they revolt? It’s disgusting.

Look, the shots have risks. They have short term risks and they have long term risks. All shots have risks.

We know that people who are over 65 have the greatest risk from Covid. We also know that people who are obese, have diabetes, heart disease, cancer, are smokers, or have inflammation type diseases are at greater risk from Covid. If people are going through and checking off those boxes, the risk of serious injury or death from the shot is probably lower than the risk of death or serious injury from Covid. It makes sense, that these are the people who would want to get the shot.

Then there’s people who are young and healthy and want the shot because they still don’t want to get Covid. They are aware of the risks of the shot and willing to take on that risk for the benefit of feeling more protected if they do encounter the virus.

Then there are people who are not really worried about Covid and would rather wait it out on the shot.

And then there’s children and people who have already had and recovered from Covid.

I know people in all of these groups. It’s complicated because there’s a lot of pressure and a lot of threatening and coercion going on. Even our own government agencies are putting information out there that is not true. People don’t know who to trust or where to go for information. We should never shame people for non credible sources. Not everyone knows how to find a good source, but that doesn’t mean they are stupid.

When a situation like Covid happens, and science is changing by the day, it’s important to know how to find a good source. Doctors and nurses that have been treating patients are a good source of information typically but in this highly politicized climate there’s a lot of censorship going on and also severe consequences for speaking outside the standard talking points.

I’ve found keeping up with current research is the best way to stay on top of the latest and greatest information but even that comes with some careful caveats. Medical journals such as the Lancet and Nature have been posting free research on Covid, which is great but much of it is prior to peer review. This is fine, but if someone doesn’t understand research really well, and the article has not been peer reviewed, it’s possible to miss some serious red flags.

I’ll give a non Covid example. I had a c-section delivery with my first child. When I was pregnant with my second I had a choice on whether or not I wanted to have a trial of labor or schedule a repeat c-section. Both had potential risks, so I poured myself into the research to help make my decision. The research supposedly showed that a repeat c-section is safer for the baby and more risky for the mom. That didn’t sit well with me so I went and found the actual study that this conclusion was based on and found that in the vaginal birth after c-section group, there were 2 infant deaths out of around 1,000 healthy births, and that was why they were making that claim. If you do the math, you know that is less than 1%. While any death of the baby is a tragedy, there was no additional information given surrounding those two deaths that could have helped understand what happened better. So I brought this information with me and had a very candid conversation with my doctor. She explained further to me that if she didn’t think I was a good candidate for a trial of labor, she would recommend against it. She also explained that this was why the hospital had strict protocols in place for what’s allowed during a trial of labor after c-section and what’s not. For instance, the hospital allows trial of labor because they have an OB on call at the hospital 24/7 and an anesthesiologist so if the worst happens, they are able to quickly perform an emergency c-section. I ended up having two successful VBACS! The research and science was good, but sometimes conclusions are poor.

So when reading studies, ask who is doing the study and why are they doing it? Also, the way the study happens is important. Are people aware of what they are getting and will that psychologically alter their thoughts and opinions? How did they select the participants? Are all groups represented? Many clinical trials historically have not included women because of our unique reproductive system that can skew results so unfortunately, women are often not represented. How many people were in the trial? Do the conclusions made match the results? In the c-section example, 2 out of 1,000 is a very small number to draw such conclusions from.

Real science always allows for questions and good debate. I’ll write more about what current research says and other ways to protect yourself from Covid.

Your voice matters

The weekend before last, my 8 year old had a soccer game. While we were there watching, something very strange was happening. There were two adults roaming the fields policing the mask policy.

This is not a post to discuss the merits of wearing a mask or whether or not you agree with the policy. The two individuals that were on the soccer field that day were going above and beyond any requirements. Here’s a run down of what happened.

My mom, who is someone I consider a mask wearing advocate if you will was sitting outside, more than 10 feet away from anyone else when we arrived and she was sipping her coffee. The lady approached her and reprimanded her for having her mask pulled down and told her she needed to pull it up in between sips.

My daughter, when she was sitting off the field during her rest period, outside and not near anyone and who had her mask pulled down to get some fresh air (she plays soccer with a mask on, which I am not a fan of but we comply) was reprimanded and told to pull her mask back up.

My husband (the coach) was wearing a black gator type mask (he’s running during the games up and down the field too) was handed a medical mask by the man and told her needed to wear that instead of the gator.

I had brought food and was snacking on our blanket, again, outside and seated no where near anyone else and was told I needed to keep my mask up in between bites and then the woman stood off and stared at me for a couple minutes to make sure I got the message.

Many other spectators were sitting spread far apart and were also harassed and one of the girls on my daughters team was distressed watching her grandpa argue loudly with the two Individuals before he was asked to leave.

The whole experience left a very bad taste in my mouth. Again, this is not about the merits of mask wearing to prevent the spread of Covid. For the most part, everyone at the game was complying with the rules. It felt like the two individuals were there to “get people”.

I used to work as an official for the state high school track meet. I remember clearly, the head official telling us all that we were not there to try to “get people out”. We were told to always give warnings to athletes and only disqualify someone when absolutely necessary to ensure fair play. It was supposed to be fun competition and if we did our jobs, most of the time no one knew we were there.

So I go back to the soccer game. Kids and parents are there trying to have fun and the two individuals turned it into something completely different.

My husband sent an email to the organization and apparently many other parents did too. Enough parents complained that they scheduled a virtual meeting about it that very week. My husband was very kind in his email. He just asked for clarification on what exactly the rules are and where they were coming from. He tried to find some of them that people were being harassed about on the soccer page and the health department page and couldn’t find them.

Other parents had these same questions and wanted to know what organization the two individuals represented. We are not involved in baseball or softball but some parents have kids that play baseball and softball too and pointed out the difference in enforcement at the ball fields.

The day after the meeting the soccer organization sent out an email admitting that it was not the county health department enforcing these rules but rather volunteers from within the organization that took it upon themselves to be the mask police under the guise of trying to not get soccer shut down by the health department. They told us they would no longer be roaming the fields, and indeed the next Saturday was a much better experience for all. They then requested that we all follow the rules because the county health department could show up at any time.

This is exactly what happens when people take it upon themselves to be the authority in righteousness. Churches have long been criticized for similar tactics. It’s like this with raising children too. If you try to be too authoritarian, you may win the particular battle but eventually your kids will resent you if your rules are harsh and serve no purpose. They will learn how to not get caught and take pleasure in defying you. However, if you take a more authoritative approach and let your children have as much freedom as possible while also keeping them safe and healthy they will feel respected and in turn have more respect towards you if they feel your rules were fair and that you weren’t just trying to control them. I try to even let my toddler have as much freedom as possible. If it’s not that big of a deal, I give him choices and save the things that are non negotiable for the times I have the authority.

People like to be treated with respect and allowed the maximum amount of freedom to make their own choices. My opinion is that these two individuals are particularly strong advocates of mask wearing and that people who do not want to wear masks in all situations really bother them. They feel they are carrying out some moral responsibility by policing people as though their lives depended upon wearing masks while seated more than 6 feet away from people while outdoors. They are not following the science and they further work to divide people by proving to those that are already against blanket mask mandates that they are more concerned with the morality of it than the science and health.

I think we all need to do our best to lower the temperature. We should speak up when something isn’t sitting right with us, like my husband and many parents did. It should always be done in a respectful way, and then I believe it really does make a difference.

Fall is here, back to school?

“If you had asked me 20 years ago if I would ever homeschool my kids, I would have laughed.” I was telling my high school friends this just last week. Welcome to 2020 and all the other crazy things I never would have believed would happen this year as I stared it down December 31st of 1999 when everyone was freaking out about Y2K!

I have decided to homeschool my 2nd grader this year. It was by no means an easy decision. If you see the dark circles under my eyes, a lot of it is from lost sleep over this decision. That said, as we edged closer and closer to the start of school in some form, I’ve felt more and more confident that it’s the best for our family.

There are many reasons that in person school didn’t feel right to us this year. There were also a lot of reasons the online option didn’t appeal to us. Now that more information has been released, it’s even less appealing. To be clear, I’m not blaming teachers, administrators or schools in any way for their decisions. Family and friends of mine are teachers and I know some of what they have been going through lately too and wish everyone could understand the impossible situations they are facing.

I thought our teachers did a fantastic job this spring with no training and no time and many of them small children at home to take care of. Even with the fantastic job they did, the online format just did not work well for us. For one thing, we don’t have reliable, fast internet. It seemed with Tim working from home and using it too, we had daily issues.

Then there was the whole computer aspect. If Alex accidentally clicked something I would have to help her get back to wear she was.

Then there was just the fact that she hated watching videos. She’s a bright girl and I don’t say that to brag at all, rather to try to explain the depth of the frustrations she faced. She hated watching a 15 minute video lesson when she knew how to do it. I would catch her yelling at the screen.

We also don’t do a ton of screen time and it’s not an exaggeration when I say that I saw some very clear anger issues rising up that I believe were a direct result of all that screen time. For older kids, the online learning might be better, but for my very active 7 year old, it’s just not what she needs.

So I never thought I’d be homeschooling but here we are! Now let me talk about the positives. Maybe this can help another parent who is struggling with what to do. Maybe I can encourage someone that they can do it!

The first positive is that I live in a wonderful neighborhood with amazing neighbors, many of whom will be homeschooling for the first time too. Not everyone has that so I feel so very thankful. My kids will still be able to socialize during the day.

Next, I can work to her pace. In an online setting the teachers can’t tell who is following along and who is stuck. I can take extra time on the areas she is struggling with and also move more quickly in the areas in which she is excelling.

It’s not as much “work” as I thought. When you remove riding the bus, having the kids stop by their lockers, getting the class ready to learn, moving to and from recess and specials there is a lot of time spent on that that doesn’t happen at home. For second grade it’s about 1.5 hours a day of schoolwork. Not 6 hours. And there are so many parts we can make fun. So much learning happens in just living. And if you are very intentional about it, you can turn many every day activities into learning. My kids love exploring nature and I’ve been more conscious about the conversations we have.

Our set up will not be affected if the schools need to shut down again. We won’t be thrown into a new online program and trying to change our home dynamics completely again. I do anticipate this new adventure will be difficult at times. I don’t think it will be easy. That said, I don’t anticipate it to be more challenging than the spring was for our family.

Finally, my daughter’s and our family’s mental health is a huge consideration. While I noticed some times of stress in Alex during the online schooling in the spring, as a whole, she has been thriving. I say this with humble gratitude of the neighborhood community in which we live. If I was upset or stressed out about the state of our country, my kids didn’t know it. I’m not saying they don’t know there’s a pandemic going on, they do. It’s still affecting many aspects of our lives. However, I don’t believe it benefits them (or really any of us) to live in that constant cycle of stress.

Also, our family has the flexibility to travel as we wish without worrying about her being pulled out of school. We purchased a new camper this summer and there are plenty of great fall camping opportunities both near and far and sometimes when the stress of the world is getting to be too much, it’s been great to get away and unplug for a bit.

I’m getting more and more excited the closer we get to starting! I know there’s a lot of strong opinions about what parents should do. I want to stress to other parents that there is no right decision and there is no wrong decision. You have to do what works best for your family and not allow others to make you feel guilty for your choices. I know some people won’t like that my daughter is not going to the public school. Hopefully they will be happy to know I’m doing a partnership. What this means is that my daughter will count for the school to receive money from the state and in return the school pays for a couple of classes. We chose for Alex to take a ninja class once a week (this is entirely dependent on the facility being able to hold classes which has not happened yet) and then we chose a monthly box subscription. The subscription box is a nature kit and we just received the first one and it’s so cool!

I plan to write about and share some of our experiences, hopefully to encourage others! One of the things I’ve found is that the homeschooling community is amazing and the parents that have been doing it have been more than willing to help us first timers get started. They are so so nice and welcoming!

For those reading who are not making these difficult choices, my only request is just to be supportive of the people in your life that are making these decisions with their kids. Their choice may not be what you would do, but trust that they know their kids and family dynamics the best and that likely there is no perfect option. I do get emotional when I think about my daughter missing out on art and music and PE class. I think about not hearing her sing at Christmas, and how she was so brave to go out for and sing a solo last year. I think about the football games she went to and the various parties and events we went to. Then I remind myself that these things are likely not going to happen this year if she were going to school anyway. We are all doing the best we can with a very difficult situation. I’m hoping that we end up having lots of fun and enjoy some extra family bonding and make the sweetest lemonade from these sour lemons.

Lastly, I’m thankful. It’s worth saying again. The children and teachers very much need our love and support and prayers right now. Nearly 4 years ago when Tim and I were thinking of me leaving my career and staying home this was not a situation we ever thought we would encounter. I remember something my aunt said to me, “The Lord will provide”, which I clung to during those first couple really tough years. Additionally, when I look back at us purchasing our house 12 years ago, we just liked the house and yard and the fact it was in a court. I couldn’t have imagined then how our neighbors would become like family to us.

Parents, I wish you all the best this school year with whatever you chose!