REDLANDS, Calif. (KABC) -- As much of the country is ready to shed their masks, there's a segment of the population who just can't. Many say the most difficult part of being immuno-compromised is getting people to understand.
Lately, 41-year-old Durk Carlisle of Redlands finds wearing a mask attracts attention.
"Now with the mask on, I enter a building and people are looking at me strangely. Still not knowing that I have a liver condition and so they just look at me as maybe being over cautious," he said.
But you can't be over cautious when you're a liver transplant recipient. Carlisle got a new organ last year after an autoimmune disorder destroyed his liver. Now, he takes anti-rejection drugs.
"The drugs are necessary to suppress the immune system. But at the same time, it also depresses the immune system's ability to fight off infections including COVID," said Dr. Michael de Vera, Chief of Transplant Surgery at Loma Linda University Health.
About 3% of Americans are immunocompromised.
"Diabetes. Patients who are obese and have heart disease and have underlying lung diseases," de Vera said.
Doctors advise their immuno-compromised patients to carefully consider crowded situations and to control what they can.
"I want to emphasize getting vaccinated. It decreases the risk of getting severe COVID and the other thing is to just continue to wear a mask," de Vera said.
Carlisle is vaccinated and boosted.
He understands people are tired of masks, but says don't forget that many lives depend on them.
"They could pass it to someone else who can take it to someone that is immunocompromised. And inadvertently, they could cause a death due to the fact that they didn't wear a mask," Carlisle said.
He got a second chance at life and Carlisle says he's going to do all he can to protect it.
"I just want to do right by the person that gave their life to me to allow me to continue to live. So in one way it's respect to them," he said.