What it’s like to catch a cold that could kill you

For Rebecca Damiani, even the smallest malady can be life-threatening
Rebecca Damiani
Photograph by John-Robert Ward II

I had asthma when I was young, but I was a very healthy child otherwise. I didn’t find out until I was over 50 that I had CVID, common variable immunodeficiency. What it basically means is that if I get a little cold, I get really sick.

Before I was with people all the time. I’m a people person. Now I can do outside things—I can ride horses—as long as it’s away from a lot of people.

I can’t go to church. I have to watch it on my iPad. If I go to the movies, I go really late, when nobody’s there. And I use hand sanitizer all the time. At the grocery store, I always wipe the basket down with that stuff, and we try to go at off times. If somebody sneezes and my husband’s there, he’ll block it. I would wear a mask, but I’ve tried it, and I still got sick. And they scare the heck out of little kids. I can’t fly because I get a virus every time.

Usually every six months I’m in the hospital. I’ve had to go into intensive care. I’ve felt several times that I was pretty close to death, and one thing you realize is that you’ve got to live the best you can where you are, no matter what comes your way, and just be cheerful.

You know, I miss people. But I have to be here [at home]. I’ve learned to just do things I can do. I love to read. I love Ancestry.com. My days are full. —As told to Josh Green

This article originally appeared in our July 2016 issue.