An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Immunocompromised: Air Force family shares challenges living through pandemic

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman
  • 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Anyone walking outside must stay six feet apart. Friends are prohibited from shaking hands. Millions of people in the United States are under some form of stay-at-home order.

Essential supplies such as toilet paper, sanitary wipes and paper towels are flying off store shelves. Doctors and nurses are scrambling in many places to find the supplies they need. These are some of the impacts the new coronavirus is having on human life.

Individuals with compromised immune systems face an increased risk of not only getting the virus, which is in at least 210 countries and territories, but having potentially serious problems recovering from COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For John Christ, a registered behavioral technician who has worked with children with a variety of disabilities for a year and a half, the pandemic means he must be extra cautious living his life.

“I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 5-years-old, psoriatic arthritis at 28, and Grave’s Disease at 29,” said Christ. “My treatments for psoriatic arthritis lower my immune system. The most common side effects of my treatments are fatigue, lethargy, confusion and dizziness. I also endure joint inflammation, psoriasis, a decline in blood sugar and tachycardia (a heart rhythm disorder).

Grave’s Disease is an immune system disorder that results in the overproduction of thyroid hormones while psoriatic arthritis is an autoimmune condition which causes inflammation of the skin and joints. Type 1 diabetes is a condition where the pancreas produces little or no insulin, a hormone that helps break down carbohydrates and use them for energy.

“With the health care system in such high demand, my treatments could be compromised, which could have dire consequences on my life,” Christ said.     

According to Johns Hopkins University, more than 2 million people have been infected by the coronavirus, and as of April 24, the virus has claimed more than 196,000 lives. To avoid potential exposure to the coronavirus and prevent the possibility of spreading the virus to children, Christ quit his job.

“Working with children and going to public schools or hospitals was a health risk before this pandemic, but with how fatal COVID-19 is, I couldn’t maintain working,” he said. “I now spend most days sketching and trying to be more creative. I think having creative outlets invites confidence during this questionable time.”

Christ also said he admires his wife, Senior Airman Nichole Krinberg, an air transportation journeyman with the 60th Aerial Port Squadron at Travis.

“Not only is she the sole income right now, she takes care of most of the grocery shopping, getting gas and venturing to public spaces to reduce my exposure to the virus,” he said. “I wish I could help her more with these tasks, because she is still working full-time. She is very strong, and I admire her every day for what she does for me.”

The two met at a coffee shop in Scottsdale, Arizona, and eventually married in April 2018. They arrived at Travis AFB two months later.

“I am concerned for my husband’s health, virus or no virus,” said Krinberg. “I have ensured precautionary measures to mitigate his exposure. I do most of the shopping, at work we all wear gloves, and now, any time we go into a public setting my husband and I wear masks. I’ve also informed my leadership about our situation and they’ve been very supportive.”

Krinberg also said she’s concerned for society.

“I hope people act responsibly so that those less fortunate are not put at undue risk,” she said. “Everyone should adhere to physical distancing regardless of their age, because they could be carriers of the virus; wash their hands regularly and wear masks when they can’t ensure they are at least six feet away from others.” 

“This is a challenging time and all the uncertainty people face can cause tremendous strain,” Krinberg said. “I hope that despite the challenges society faces, people utilize this time to grow and unite.”

Krinberg also said she and Christ try to view those challenges as opportunities to grow and connect with one another.

“We have been enjoying the simplicities of life such as taking the dog for a walk, playing cards, art and catching up on Netflix,” she said. “We also purchased a rowing machine so we can work out at home if the weather is bad outside.”

“We also have dinners together now more frequently and we’ve been able to work on our communication more,” Christ added.