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‘Take me out to the ballgame, take me out with the crowd’ (finally!)


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banner image for "Float Like a Buttahfly," a column by Kerry Wong, depicting a butterfly winding through the sky

“Baseball is 90% mental. The other half is physical.” — New York Yankees Hall of Famer Yogi Berra

It seems we’re never going to make it to a post-COVID world. It’s never going to be gone — or if it is, other variants or viruses will likely take its place. That means I’ve got to find a way to live with it. But I’m still living in this chronically ill, immunocompromised, and disabled body, so “finding a way” isn’t always so easy.

For three years, I was so careful — and scared. Even as businesses opened again, I didn’t want to chance going anywhere or being with anyone, given my sarcoidosis. I missed holidays with my family. I missed brunch dates with friends. I missed patient advocacy conferences. I missed life — even more than I was already missing it because of pain, fatigue, and other symptoms of my disease.

But now, as my rheumatologist reassures me, things are different. We’ve got vaccines and treatments, so COVID-19 isn’t as dangerous as it was. She encouraged me to go places, see people, and do things. “It’s time to live again,” she said.

I decided to trust her judgment, but remain cautious. I still wear a mask everywhere. Two, actually — one for me and one for the people around me who aren’t masking. I still choose outdoor seating at a restaurant and keep hand sanitizer in every bag (and attached to my cane, walker, and scooter). And I do my best to avoid crowds.

But …

Taking her words to heart, what I really wanted to do was go to Opening Day at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx — which is pretty much the opposite of avoiding crowds. I’ve taken a few COVID-safe and disability-friendly trips, but this idea was stepping up to the big leagues, literally. Still, I’d seen immunocompromised friends of mine go to baseball games, so I assured myself that with enough protective equipment, an outdoor stadium would be OK.

I used to love going to Yankee games with my husband. Years ago, we went to a dozen games a season, including the premium games on Opening Day and Old-Timers’ Day. But as my symptoms progressed, I had to cancel plans for game after game; we eventually gave away more tickets than we kept. We still tried to go to a game or two when we could. Before COVID-19 hit, I was even planning a Sarcoidosis Awareness Day at Yankee Stadium.

So a Yankees home game was something I’d really been missing. We bought tickets for Opening Day on March 30, and when I saw the full season schedule, there was another standout: the MLB All-Star Game on my husband’s birthday in Seattle. We took that as a sign and started to plan our trip.

A whole new ballgame

My experiences at these games couldn’t be further apart, and all because of my own actions (or inaction). I initially forgot that being comfortable means not only COVID-safe, but also accessible and not strenuous. Even though I’ve been chronically ill for 15 years and disabled for 10, that adjustment is sometimes hard to accept.

A woman with long dark and gray hair wears a blue face mask with white designs, a dark blue coat, and a light blue shirt. Beside her is a man wearing a New York Yankees dark blue stocking cap, a gray Yankees jersey, and an orange coat. Both are seated in a stadium with other people and a New York Yankees symbol in the background.

Kerry Wong and her husband, Michael, at Yankee Stadium for Opening Day 2023. (Courtesy of Kerry Wong)

On Opening Day, my husband dropped me by the stadium entrance and drove off to park the car. I had to stand 30 minutes while waiting for him to walk back. Our seats were just a few steps down from the top and a few away from the aisle, but they felt like more. After gaining so much weight from steroids, I barely fit in the seat, and its arms dug into me. Every time I got up to let someone pass, I not only hurt; I felt like the whole stadium was staring at the fat girl. I even tried not to drink much because I knew it’d be too difficult to get to the bathroom.

For the All-Star Game on July 11, months later, we ordered wheelchair-accessible and companion seats and I used my mobility scooter. Right off the bat, I could feel the difference: I was able to get around easily to take in the whole stadium, shoot pictures, and check out the concession stands. Our seating area was protected and spacious, with a counter and cushioned folding chairs that didn’t dig into me.

A woman smiles in a dark blue baseball cap, glasses, and a gray T-shirt with a green design. She's beside a man in a dark blue baseball cap and a dark blue T-shirt, over which there's an unbuttoned gray New York Yankees jersey. Metal grids are above them.

Michael and Kerry Wong (in one of her rare unmasked moments) smile in the spacious accessible section at T-Mobile Park in Seattle for the 2023 MLB All-Star Game. (Courtesy of Kerry Wong)

Learning to play the game

I’m still glad I went to that first game, and what I learned there really paid off at the second. Here are a few tips to help you feel like a champion, whether at a ballgame or anywhere else. Batter up!

  • Single: Acknowledge your true abilities, disabilities, and challenges. Denial only hurts us.
  • Double: Use the available supports and services.
  • Triple: Accept help when it’s offered.
  • Home run: Ask for help when you need it.

Always remember, life is a team sport!

Note: Sarcoidosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sarcoidosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sarcoidosis.

The post ‘Take me out to the ballgame, take me out with the crowd’ (finally!) appeared first on Sarcoidosis News.

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