Nov. 18, 2020

COVID: Finding a Balance for Those We Love

For Brian...

I am sitting in the waiting room adjacent to the covid ICU. I shouldn’t be here, I’m not allowed. But I am here. That’s what you do when your friend asks you to show up.

It’s been almost 9 months since this pandemic began to run our lives. Nine months of mask wearing and debating. Nine months of sifting through new guidelines just to resort back to the old ones a few weeks later. Nine months of watching people rip each other apart over whether or not to believe science.

Today I am sitting in a waiting room next to the COVID ICU. A room that is filled with couches that are pushed to the side, elevator doors that are blocked, bins with reusable gowns, extra ventilators, intubation equipment, and the recycled PPE of the staff... Earlier an excited nurse came in. She began digging through dozens of paper sacks on an industrial wire rack. She had been looking for about 5 minutes when she snatched a paper bag and said, “YES! Thank goodness!” She then remembered that she wasn’t alone and turned to look at me explaining that she had just remembered that she put her OTHER N95 in this room in September, that her current mask was beginning to get fuzzy and she had been inhaling fibers all day...
I am sitting in what used to be the waiting room of the covid ICU. I am sitting here because one of my dearest friends is finally being allowed to visit her father. He’s been alone in the hospital since the last week in October. He has COVID pneumonia. He’s in his mid 60s and has a history of some lung disease. People feel so relieved when they hear that...mid 60s...preexisting health conditions...those two things make the average person feel safe. It leads them to believe that because they don’t have any health problems and they are 20 years younger, they are in the clear. I hear so many people say so many ridiculous things. “Everyone’s going to get it eventually, we might as well just get it over with”.... “Masks don’t help”... “This disease is a government hoax”...”It’s only dangerous for the elderly and those with underlying health conditions”... or my personal favorite, “When it’s my time to die, it’s my time to die.” 
It’s funny how brave we are about death and dying until it’s something we are actually faced with. When we are under the impression that we have all of the time in the world, time doesn’t matter. However, the minute that we find it slipping away we begin to regret the time we didn’t spend wisely. 
I am thinking about this while my friend is sitting next to her father in his ICU bed. She is holding his hand, trying to say things to help him fight. He hears her, I believe that. He is intubated and on a ventilator. He has tubes protruding from his chest and his face. He is swollen from IV fluids and steroids. But he hears her. He can’t speak or squeeze her hand but he feels her holding his. He feels her and he is loving her back. I know this because I know him. THIS family knows that COVID is real. THIS family knows the pain of separation in a time when closeness is needed. I have painted a picture of my friend’s dad for you...A picture of a 66 year-old man with lung disease that is now fighting for his life in the ICU, but that isn’t who he is. This is a 66-year old man who still holds a full-time job in healthcare. This is a man that sees his family, swims with his grandkids, plays jokes on people around him, and makes the world a better place. He has devoted his life to the people around him. He is active. He is healthy enough that you probably wouldn’t even know that he has underlying health issues just by looking at him. This is a man that came to visit my son in the hospital more times than any other person in our lives did. He prayed with us. He laughed with us. He called and texted frequently. THIS is the picture you should have of him in your mind. He is not feeble. He is strong. He is my friend. If it wasn’t for COVID, he would still be doing all of these things. COVID has taken all of these things from him. I hope he can get those things back. I PRAY he can get those things back. Only time will tell...
I guess my current take-aways from all of this are that time is precious and COVID is real. Do what you can to find a balance between living your life to the fullest and taking the precautions needed to prevent the spread of COVID to your fellow man. Whether you like it or not there has to be a happy medium somewhere in between reckless and recluse. Please be safe out there. We have got to find a way to navigate through this together..our futures depend on it.