Kumail Nanjiani and Wife Emily Gordon Consider Risk 'Every Time We Do Anything' Due to Her Illness

·4 min read
Emily V Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani attends the "Eternals" UK Premiere at the BFI IMAX Waterloo on October 27, 2021 in London, England.
Emily V Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani attends the "Eternals" UK Premiere at the BFI IMAX Waterloo on October 27, 2021 in London, England.

Tim P. Whitby/Getty

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon knew exactly what living in constant fear of illness felt like.

In a recent interview with PEOPLE, the couple, whose real-life love story was portrayed in The Big Sick, opened up about what the pandemic has looked like for them due to Gordon being a part of the immunocompromised community.

"When COVID-19 hit and suddenly it became very scary to be around other people for fear of what they could give you and what you could contract, I thought, 'Welcome to my world,'" Gordon tells PEOPLE.

The producer, 43, has been living with adult-onset Still's Disease (AOSD), a rare inflammatory immune disorder that can have life-threatening complications, since she was diagnosed in 2007. And in 2017, she was diagnosed with common variable immunodeficiency (CVID), an immune deficiency disease where the body has low levels of protective antibodies and an increased risk of infections.

"Essentially, my body does not make the things that helped me fight off illness — anywhere from huge illnesses to your common cold. So I have had to be incredibly careful for years now," she explains.

"I get all kinds of illnesses all the time," Gordon continues. "And that was all before the pandemic, which then became a lot scarier because if I was at risk for all of those, obviously I was at much higher risk for contracting COVID 19 as well."

RELATED: How Kumail Nanjiani and Wife Emily V. Gordon's Quarantine Podcast Brought Them Closer

Kumail Nanjiani and Wife Emily V Gordon Talk Being Immunocompromised amid the Pandemic
Kumail Nanjiani and Wife Emily V Gordon Talk Being Immunocompromised amid the Pandemic

Up The Antibodies

RELATED: 'The Big Sick' 's Kumail Nanjiani on the Moment He Realized He Wanted to Marry His Girlfriend — While She Was in a Coma

Throughout the pandemic, Nanjiani, 44, says he and his wife had an extremely tight lockdown and didn't leave the house for the first year and a half, unless for Gordon's doctor's appointments.

Even after they got vaccinated, The Big Sick star admits that before making a trip outside of the house, big or small, he had to carefully consider whether the health risks were worth it due to Gordon's conditions.

"It's sort of become our habit to avoid everything. And so now it's sort of a little bit of trying to readjust to being able to do some things," Nanjiani says. "For me, it's been the transition from just surviving to thriving, trying to sort of return to some kind of normalcy. Taking risk calculations, every time we do anything."

Gordon shares that prior to the pandemic, she would visit family or go to an event and accept the fact that she'd likely be sick later on. However, being in quarantine resulted in her better managing her AOSD and CVID.

"In many ways, I got healthier in the pandemic because I suddenly was not around other people's germs. Other people's germs have always been my kryptonite. But it felt interesting to finally go, 'Oh, this is what it's like to not get sick every few months. This is actually quite nice.' I got a weird taste of what it felt like to be completely healthy, which is a very sad thing now that I just said it out loud."

RELATED: First Comes Love Then Comes Coma? The Amazing Real-Life Romance of the Couple Behind 'The Big Sick'

Kumail Nanjiani and Wife Emily V Gordon Talk Being Immunocompromised amid the Pandemic
Kumail Nanjiani and Wife Emily V Gordon Talk Being Immunocompromised amid the Pandemic

Up The Antibodies

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

"I've been in a situation for years, where I have had to be careful. I've had to worry about getting sick from having dinner with friends or from being out in the open. For immunocompromised people, we have had to oftentimes live in fear. I'm not interested in living in fear."

That's why Gordon and Nanjiani recently teamed up with AstraZeneca and their "Up The Antibodies" educational campaign, which sheds light on the options the immunocompromised community has to stay healthy and protected amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's been frustrating to constantly see news reports that most people can get back to normal, most people can do this and that. And it's always with a little asterisk with exclusions for elderly and immunocompromised people," Gordon explains. "But I felt wonderful about being involved with something that we're front and center, we are not the exception. We're not the exclusion. We are the main focus."

"The only way for me to be completely sure of my health is to stay inside and never leave the house. And I'm not interested in leading that kind of life," she says. "That's why I'm very happy to be involved with this campaign, because I'm hoping to bring more advocacy, more research, more information, more stories, because then we can all be armed with the most important thing, which is information. We haven't had that for quite some time."

While Nanjiani has more reservations than his wife, he says he's optimistic.

"With these new therapies that are really amazing, maybe there will be some day where hopefully we won't have to think so much about the risk cost benefit analysis."