These immunocompromised college students felt isolated when the fall semester began. So they did something about it

Samantha Price, left, and Cameron Lynch created a virtual support group for immunocompromised students across the US.

(CNN)At first, Cameron Lynch thought she would need prepared questions for the group to discuss in their first Zoom call.

On the list of proposed topics: "Have you had a hard time with friends in the pandemic?", "Are you planning to go back to school in the fall?" and "How have you been coping on a day-to-day basis?"
But Lynch quickly realized that the group of immunocompromised college students didn't need questions to guide them. They just wanted to talk about their shared feeling of isolation during the pandemic.
    They bonded over the fact that people assume that all teens are healthy. They questioned whether their schools were taking the right measures to help those who are more at-risk. They vented about their friends not understanding their inability to leave the house without fear of contracting Covid.
    It's a virtual support group for immunocompromised students -- but its members don't call it that. They prefer the name "Chronic and Iconic."
    It all started with a social media post. Lynch, who has Type 1 diabetes, celiac disease and a form of muscular dystrophy, opened up in a heartfelt letter to her friends and followers.
    "While I have been preparing my body to fight the virus by running so my lung capacity can be better, eating healthy so that my body has enough nutrients to fight, and attempting to manage my disease (which is difficult with teenage hormones), it seems that everyone else has stopped caring," Lynch, 19, wrote in the letter, which she shared with CNN. "My reality is different. My reality is isolating."
    Her reality means she can't hang out with other college students who she said she sees on her social media feed "flood to the beaches to drink their White Claws." Instead, it means she sits alone in her bed "afraid that no one cares."
    Much to Lynch's surprise, the post resonated beyond her own social network. What started in July as a five-person Zoom hangout has turned into a 50-plus person group -- with students from across the US -- who have an ongoing GroupMe text messaging chain and frequent video calls.
    As US colleges and universities return -- either in-person, online only or both in what's called the "hybrid model" -- immunocompromised students are struggling to figure out how to navigate school during a pandemic. If their classes aren't offered online, some are forced to rearrange their schedules or risk falling behind. If they don't feel safe going to campus, some have to take a leave of absence. And throughout it all, some say the feeling of isolation has become overwhelming.
    "I think one thing that the media and schools don't seem to understand is how these policies are impacting the mental health of their students," Lynch told CNN.
    "By saying that in-person learning is essential, that's basically saying the community can function without us, and is better off when we're not there."

    Covid puts life on hold for high-risk students

    In her letter, Lynch emphasized that her new normal means limiting time outside, even though she's sick of watching shows on Netflix. Unlike her peers, who can cautiously partake in activities, she feels she has to keep her life on hold until Covid is no longer a threat.