By FRANCINE HARDAWAY
I’m writing this for the ER doc who I have a feeling I’m going to be meeting one day soon.
I thought I’d introduce myself.
I’m the one who is going to be triaged: 78 years old, comorbidity of hypertension, not enough useful life left to bother with.
How do I feel as one of the people in the at-risk category? Awful. Mentally awful. There’s no way to escape this virus. Not the virus, but the knowledge that the country is in a state of chaos, doesn’t have enough hospital beds or ventilators, and will be resorting to triage, even though nobody is admitting it yet. I hear the dire predictions about people dying in hallways in my sleep.
Which is not, of course, how I viewed my life two weeks ago.
That person I saw in the mirror? Still self-supporting, a yogi and a denizen of the gym. Flexible and fit. Walking 4 miles a day. Still pretty mentally sharp. 3 dogs and a huge network of social connections. Three or four invitations to lunch and dinner every week.
But now my life has been turned upside down. Outside of walking the dogs, I’m a shut-in. If I have to go to the grocery store, I go just as it opens, and I wipe my cart down carefully. I run into the house, put the bags down on the table, and wash my hands. I feel like I have taken an unnecessary risk for navel oranges, vegan cheese and salt free snacks.
I’ve done all the reading. Virologists are the worst for making people fearful. They deal in worst case scenarios. Then come the engineers, who are good at predictive analytics. Many of my younger friends are in Silicon Valley, and they’re hunkering down. They took their kids out of school weeks ago.
In sunny Arizona, day after day they tell us we have nine cases. They’ve canceled all our tourist season, so other than community spread, we won’t have outside infection. Or will we? Or do we already?
I know too much. I’ve been in health care one way or another for most of my working life, either married to a physician or helping health-related companies get started, or marketing them. So I know that although I’m taking all the precautions I can, I’m never totally sanitized. I feel like climbing into the shower and staying there. I put vaseline at the end of my nose every morning. I pray to my nasal passages: cilia, keep me free. I order immune-boosting herbs.
I’d like to call a local emergency room and find out if they are overrun. I’m starting to look for ER docs in my network, just to see what’s really happening, because they have the best chance of knowing.
The women I walk dogs with in the morning have differing political beliefs. We argue a lot, partly because we disagree, and partly because it’s the only fun we have. I’m the yogi, the one who keeps pointing out that we’re stuck with each other for the next six months at least, and we have to get along.
You can imagine what my political beliefs are. I have become some sort of fanatical conspiracy theorist. But this is wrong. Why should it be President Trump’s responsibility to come up with a plan? Where is the healthcare industry? They’re the ones who decide the number of beds we will have, and how to spend money they could have spent on ventilators and respirators. If they’ve spent it on their own salaries and profits, that’s not his fault. I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole trying to get back to first causes. If we had universal coverage, if we had pandemic planning, if we had more money given to health and less to the military, if,if,if…
But we are where we are. I’m going to put on some disco music and do some floor exercises at home, all while wondering how clean my floor actually is.