Disclaimer:Long post but please read it all the way to the end.
How did we get here? A month ago I was taking a road trip with my Mom visiting with family we hadn’t seen in a long time. We were just starting to hear the rumblings about this coronavirus. I came home ready to get back into the grind and then we were thrust into this world no one recognized. People started getting notices that schools were closed from March 16th-April 17th. Within a week restaurants were closing their doors to dine in patrons and servers were suddenly unemployed. Next came salons and barber shops. Small businesses across the United States are hanging closed signs in their windows. Teachers have to learn new ways of teaching and parents, grandparents and care givers are suddenly stepping into the role of home schooling. It leaves us questioning how long the experts knew it was coming, why they didn’t pay attention sooner, why as a country we weren’t more prepared. Was it arrogance? Did we think it couldn’t happen here? Certainly not in the United States. We are no third world country, right? And now look where we are.
None of us wants to or knows how to live in this chaos we were thrust into. None of us wants to live in a world where people that we love are suddenly potentially dangerous to us. A world where children can’t go home for Sunday dinners, where friends can’t do Friday game night, where families can’t come together and celebrate births and birthdays, christenings or baptism, life and even death. A world where we can’t bury our loved ones or have a proper funeral. A world where hospitals and nursing homes have to close their doors to the public and people we love are dying alone. A world where grandparents can’t wrap their arms around their grandchildren but if they are lucky they can see them on a computer screen.
Please read on:
I would really like to share my own story with you. Some have heard it, some more than once but I would like to share it here in detail. On a Saturday night in mid-October 2012 I woke up freezing, legitmately freezing. I could not get warm and I was in a heated waterbed under 4 blankets so I got up and took a hot bath. This was the cycle that continued through the weekend. On Monday I went to my primary care doctor who suggested I probably had some lingering infection from a recent UTI. (We had also had a pretty bad case of the flu in our house in August) Anyway, he wrote me a prescription for an antibiotic and sent me on my way. I went to the pharmacy but I was literally so weak I coulnd’t wait for them to fill it so I went home and back to bed and drove back down on Tuesday to pick it up. On Wednesday when my ex-asshole (sorry I had to) came home from work I met him at the bottom of the stairs and told him I needed him to take me to the hospital because there was something really wrong with me. We went to the ER at Wilson and it was packed. I begged for a bed where I could lay down but they said they just didn’t have one and it would be a minimum of 4 hour wait and they suggested I go to General so we did. You know you can’t go to an ER without waiting so I literally laid on the floor in the waiting room with my head in my daughters lap until they took me back. They started with blood work which showed I had a pretty elevated white blood count so they admitted me. On the way to my room they took me for a CT scan, which showed I had pneumonia. That didn’t make a lot of sense to me at the time because I wasn’t having any respiratory symptoms, yet. That day and the ones that followed were some of the scariest of my life. My fever kept climbing and climbing and climbing and they coudln’t get it under control. My potassium bottomed out. My family sat beside me and watched all this happen hopeless to do anything about it. The doctors knew there was more than pnuemonia going on but they didn’t know what. When they had exhausted all other efforts to control my fever they put me on a cooling blanket and packed me ice. Have you ever been shivering cold? Imagine being that cold and being packed in ice with a fever that was still peaking out at 107*. My skin starting mottling. I laid there sobbing when the dr came in to look at it and said it was from sepsis. I had seen that, in people just prior to their death. I had also had an Aunt recently pass from septic shock so I believed in that moment in time that I was going to die in that hospital bed. My daughter took my face in her hands and she said “Mom, look at me, you are NOT going to die. You are where you need to be.” I’m not sure she believed that herself but she always been a leader. Honestly at this point in time I was so sick that I just started getting delirious. Some time during that night they decided to send me to the ICU because my heart was working too hard. That was wee hours of Friday I think. Doctors came and doctors went. And finally they called in the one with the answers, Dr Christine Fenlon. She had the most amazing presence I had ever encountered. She sat by my bed and she held my hand and she just talked. She asked alot of questions and when she was done she said, we’ll get to the bottom of this. Before that night was over she had her answer-I had legionarries disease. I had zero idea what that was and she did her best to explain it me but she said the important thing was now they knew what they needed to do to treat it. At that point I was beyond sick. I was on a bi-pap machine and could only communicate with my cell phone or a piece of paper. Regina Frants, the pulmonary specialists, had a very distinctive walk and when she came down the hall I sat on the edge of my bed to try and prove to her that I could breathe okay because I knew they were thinking of a ventilator and I was afraid of that. As soon as she walked away I collapsed back on my bed and put the mask back on. Saturday the doctors came in and they said your body is just working far too hard. We really don’t have a choice anymore and we have to sedate you and intubate to give your body a chance to heal. I was terrified and I know my family was too but I gave them permission to do what they had to do. When my kids stood at the edge of my bed and we all cried something inside me snapped. I promised them that I would be back! They escorted them all out and the last thing I remember is them raising my bed and a respiratory therapist bagging me while they prepped me for the ventilator. I went to sleep in the ICU at General Hospital and the next thing I remember I was looking at the board with the date and six days had passed-six days that I have no recollection of but by the grace of God I had kept my promise. At some point in time they had transferred me via ambulance from General to Wilson. The story doesn’t end there. It took my body a really long time to come back from that. Months of not being able to do even the simplest things. At one appt when I was frustrated my doctor spelled it out for me and said, “Listen, your white blood count was over 100,000. That is a serious infection. You were septic so the infection wasn’t localized just in your lungs. It was also in your brain. Add to that the fact that you had a sustained fever of over 105 for an extend period of time. That kind of fever cracks your brain similar to a stroke. And then you were sedated and intubated which basically means they shut your brain off. You shouldn’t be here. If at any time any one thing had gone wrong you wouldn’t be. You are very lucky to be alive today. So take the life you were given back and don’t sweat the stuff you can’t do.” And then of course there was the the PTSD. Fear of the mist when the grocery store waters the vegetables, fear of hot tubs, fear that stayed with me for a very long time. Fear that has resurfaced and is in hyper-overdrive once again, for a damn good reason!
Why do I want to share this now? Because I want people to understand. I want people to understand how much havoc a virus can reak on a persons body. I want people to understand it is not only themselves they should worry about. Its about SO much more than being inconvenieced. My family was terrified and they could be there for me! Think of all those families going through it now who can’t be. How gut wretching that must be. Imagine someone you love most being alone in an ICU and you can’t go there. That is the reality of this virus.
This virus is dangerous for so many people but this virus would most likely take my life. So for those of us who are at extra risk-when they tell you to social distance, please do it. If you are sick and the doctor recommends you should stay home, even if you don’t know what you might have, please stay home. Is it really worth risking someone else’s safety for? If there is really something you need, ask someone to bring it and leave it outside your door. I get it, people have to work and people have to eat. Someone has to go to the grocery store but make a list and go once a week. Stay home as much as you are able. We all have a responsibility here. This isn’t one person or one demographics problem. This is global. And as someone whose body can’t possibly fight something like this off again and who is also immunocomprised, please listen!!! I’m begging you, listen. I don’t have a picture of myself during this time so I borrowed one from a friend. If my story can help one person I will be glad I shared. I don’t love not seeing my kids! I don’t love not seeing my grandchildren! My daughter and her family are here in town and I can’t see them. Don’t think for a second that doesn’t break my heart. But social distancing is social distancing and for my safety my children are abiding by the recommendations.I pray that you will too. It’s not a lot to ask and your decisions today could save someone tomorrow.