Safety Tips for Staying Healthy When Your Immune System Is Compromised

Updated on June 23, 2020
Don Bobbitt profile image

I am a kidney transplant recipient and a diabetic of 20+ years. I live well by managing my foods and keeping up with the technology.

How have I survived almost a quarter of a century of life as a kidney transplant recipient? Here are my tips.
How have I survived almost a quarter of a century of life as a kidney transplant recipient? Here are my tips. | Source

My Body Is Already Damaged

I have spent a number of years in what I call a damaged body, and what I say in this article is based on what I have learned about how to stay alive. I'm warning you now that you won't see a lot of quotes from textbooks or famous doctors.

Here's a quick personal health history. In 1993, I contracted a rare disease called Wegener's. After two years of experimental treatments, I was lucky enough that it was put into remission. But my kidneys were so damaged that I needed a transplant, and one of my brothers was a perfect transplant match. I've lived on my new kidney for almost 25 years.

That's great, right? Well, there are a number of complications that come with having a transplant of any organ.

  • I must take medications that suppress their immune system. This means that I can easily catch your cold, flu, or whatever communicable disease you might have when you just shake my hand or sneeze on me.
  • You are at a higher risk of developing type-2 diabetes (this happened to me). This is one of the side effects of being on anti-rejection medications for years.

There are other potential health problems for transplant recipients, such as:

  • Gout attacks
  • Increased levels of heart disease
  • Increased Allergies
  • The reappearance of the dreaded Wegener's disease
  • Higher risk for some types of cancer.

These situations are out there, threatening every transplant recipient's future health. So you might ask: How have I survived almost a quarter of a century of life as a kidney transplant recipient?

Along with my personal healthcare and a special diet, I regularly go onto the web and read about medical advances with transplant treatments and even other diseases that are being treated.

Don't Try to Shake My Hand

Since I've had my transplant, I've been trying to avoid certain things. It's been decades since I have shaken hands with a stranger or hugged a close friend. When I do have physical contact with a friend, I have already moved them onto a special list of people, which I usually do when:

  • I know they are a healthy person, and I can see no visible symptoms;
  • I have gotten to know them and know that take care of themselves when they do get sick;
  • I trust that they are aware of my health problems and care enough about me to keep "at arm's length."

I Purposefully Live in a Community With No Kids

I do so many little things in my daily life that I have learned can help me avoid catching viruses and diseases from other people.

I live in a 55-plus gated community with no kids. Why? Because my wife and I raised three kids of our own, and we know, as any of you who have kids knows, that small children, even the healthy ones, contract and carry and share every common cold, flu, and infectious disease they come in contact with.

So when we retired, living in a restricted access community was what my wife and I intentionally looked for in order to reduce our exposure to potential health problems.

My Tips for Protection Against Viruses Like COVID-19

The world is what I call anywhere outside my house. Of course, I have to go into the real world, and I don't hesitate to do so. Before this Coronavirus disease reared its ugly head, I already had my own arsenal of personal precautions I used as I deemed necessary to reduce my exposure to prevalent diseases and bacteria that might be traveling around at the moment.

Supermarkets/Grocery Stores

  • When I go to a supermarket I will use their carts, and I always use those disinfectant towels they provide for their customers. I wipe my hands, and then I thoroughly wipe down the carts handles and other areas I might touch.
  • I go directly to the fresh food section and pull a few of those thin plastic bags from the dispensers and stick one on my hand and use it to pick up and examine foods I might purchase.
  • I select fresh foods that are towards the back. These will most often have been handled less than those that have been on the shelf for days.
  • I reach behind the canned goods on the front of the shelf and select one that is further back that has probably been handled less.
  • I use my extra plastic bags for protecting any fresh vegetables or fruits that I purchase. This helps reduce the chance of them being infected on the check-out conveyor, or possibly by the checkout clerks themselves.

Gas Station Pumps

  • Whenever I need to get fuel for my automobile, I will use one of their towels (usually in a dispenser near the pumps), or I will use one of the paper towels that I keep in my car. I usually steal a few of these from fast-food restaurants I frequent.
  • That pump handle is what everyone touches along with the credit card keypad. I do not touch these areas of the pump with my bare hand.

Restaurants and Bars

When you go to a restaurant or bar, you will usually have a waiter come by and lay down a knife and a fork wrapped up in a single paper napkin along with a plastic laminated menu. Immediately ask for several extra napkins. Once I get my extra napkins, I do the following;

  1. I use one to wipe down the table.
  2. I get rid of that napkin and I set my cell phone on top of a clean one and not on the bare tabletop to avoid it being contaminated.
  3. I order my drink and ask for it to be served in a real glass and not the plastic glasses that get rewashed. Why? Because they do not clean as well as real glass.
  4. I use another napkin to wipe off my menu, just in case they didn't disinfect it themselves. There can be a lot of dangerous bacteria on any reused menu.
  5. If the serving staff brings my food out and they aren't using gloves, then hopefully, they are at least washing their hands regularly. I can't control their kitchen staff, but I can wipe down my eating utensils and use a napkin everywhere possible to reduce my chances of infections.

Other Public Places

There are often other public places that you may need to visit such as banks with ATMs, government offices with used clipboards, pens and pencils, or just an entrance or exit door that is hard to open.

Ask for Extra Napkins

Some waitstaff might give you a strange look when you ask for a few extra napkins, or they may even try to argue with you when you request them, but I just tell them I have a health problem where I can easily contract a cold or flu from others.

This usually does the job, and I will get my extra napkins right away, but once in a while, they might ask about my health problem. I just tell them I had a transplant and a suppressed immune system. The questioning look goes away, and they will just disappear and come back with a nice stack of paper napkins for me to use.

Wear Gloves If You Remember/Can

With this coronavirus outbreak, more and more people are wearing gloves and masks when they go out. And honestly, I try to remember to keep a few gloves in my car, but sometimes I just don't have any on me when I get into a position where I feel they are necessary.

Use Plastic Sandwich Bags If You Don't Have Gloves

One backup maneuver of mine is to keep a couple of plastic sandwich bags in my car that I will often stick in my pocket when I see that I might have a problem touching certain things like doors, gas pumps, etc.

I just slip my hand into the bag and use it as my temporary protection from possibly touching a high-probability infection site.

This is what the COVID-19 looks like.
This is what the COVID-19 looks like.

Disease and Antiquated Community Concepts

All of the things you have read here so far are things I learned, often the hard way, over the past couple of decades as I try to not catch whatever is out there in the real world that might attack me.

Have they worked for me? Well yes, I feel that they have, and I see no reason to stop my personal practices.

I have watched as governments around the world try to contain this deadly coronavirus, and to me, it seems that they are operating on the assumption that our world populations are isolated groups similar to the way it was a century ago. And each nation is trying to contain their population and keep themselves away from the other nation's people.

Well, the one thing they were not ready for is the fact that everyone on this planet can now jump on an airplane and be in another country within hours. And there are many people in each nation that have business relations all around the world.

Our planet has a global economy that travels, not just between states, and counties and cities, but between continents. This new virus has shown the inadequacy of our dependence on national isolation as a containment tool.

In my unlearned opinion—even I can recommend a new and necessary method for handling new diseases—we need to establish a global health and disease management system that operates quickly to develop a sequence of actions;

  1. Fast detection of any new disease
  2. international communication of the disease specifics
  3. International development of an attack plan
  4. International development of a treatment plan,
  5. International development of a vaccine or cure,
  6. International monitoring of this disease along with all other controlled diseases

Sure, this looks simple when you see it on paper, but the reality is that this kind of worldwide cooperation won't happen for years to come because of national political wrangling and a refusal to work together—for the good of all mankind.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

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    • profile image

      Jorge 

      3 months ago

      Great article as usual Don! Please be safe!

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      3 months ago from UK

      Thanks for sharing your experience and the tips about precautions you take to keep well. They are so relevant at this time. I hope you stay well.

    • Don Bobbitt profile imageAUTHOR

      Don Bobbitt 

      3 months ago from Ruskin Florida

      Femi - You could be right. A lot of eyes have been opened to the antiquated systems we now use to manage our solutions to new diseases.

      Hopefully things will improve soon.

      DON

    • tony55 profile image

      femi 

      3 months ago from Nigeria

      Life sometimes offers a curve ball when one least expect.Sorry for what you've endured over the year. In my case I have escaped a few near death experience,bacterial overload and life saving surgery last year.I believe this covi-19 will completely change human interaction and the world as we know it.

    • Don Bobbitt profile imageAUTHOR

      Don Bobbitt 

      3 months ago from Ruskin Florida

      T - Thanks so much for your taking the time to read my article and to comment on it.

      And Yes, the road has been hard at times, but it has also, luckily, been long enough that the the bad things that have happened to be are spaced far apart for healing to happen.

      Thanks again, and may your adventures in life be fabulous and worthy.

      DON

    • tsadjatko profile image

      The Logician 

      3 months ago from now on

      Don, you are to be commended for opening your heart to us and sharing your very personal experiences relating to your life and health in such a way as to be intentionally educational and informative to all readers of your article at a time such as this when we are all concerned about the future of our health and country.

      I pray God bless you with long life and better health.

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