Meet Gracie. Gracie is a lively 12-year-old who loves horseback riding, swimming, and singing along to Carrie Underwood. She’s a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a proud pet owner.

She’s also a rare disease warrior.

She has an autoimmune disease that causes her body to attack her brain. Doctors describe it as “her brain on fire.” Chemo helps control symptoms but also leaves her severely immunocompromised. And that means she’s not only most likely to contract diseases like COVID-19 but most likely to be gravely affected by them, too.

Right now many of us are feeling the inconveniences of this pandemic. We complain about being asked to stay in, when we really want to be out. We struggle to work from home while our kids run amuck, we mourn missed social engagements and vacations, and we question why must our lives stop when the symptoms of the novel coronavirus aren’t that bad?

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But here’s the thing. We aren’t being asked to stay in to keep ourselves healthy.

We’re being asked to stay in to keep from contracting and spreading itto keep others, others like Gracie alive. 

It’s true of this pandemic that “only the vulnerable will be affected,” but your only is my everything. And if she contracts this, she will end up in a hospital fighting for her life. And because of the rules surrounding it, she’ll be there alone. 

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And I don’t share this as a guilt trip. We’re all mourning something right now. And mama, let that grief flow because you’ve been called upon to do hard things. We all have. But in the face of grief and hardship, make a choice to do what’s right. Because there are lives depending on it.

Look at this girl. And hear a mama’s plea.

Do for this girl what I alone cannot.

Wash your hands, practice social distancing and if you are able, stay in. 

Because this girl has never spent a night in a hospital away from mama, and the very thought she may have to has us both sick with worry.

Please, I BEG you, flatten the curve. We all need to do our part.

Cara Arnold

I’m a mama to 3 whose learning to balance parenthood and chronic illness at the hands of autoimmune encephalitis. Some days I’m a soccer mom, carpooling like a boss; other days I’m a relentless advocate, taking on doctors and insurance companies alike. But, if you’re looking for consistency every day I’m a hot mess. My life is a puzzle that’s still not together. I used to think pieces were missing. But it's all finally fitting together. It’s not what I envisioned, and some days I mourn that; but it’s mine. And knowing how fast that can change I try to appreciate every moment of it.