Pandemic Journal: Chaos

I didn’t want to write this article, because it’s tough, and sad, and awful. But, I would have wanted my ancestors to record those times too, maybe especially those times, so I am doing the same. Think of this as a letter from someone far away – in the past. You know the outcome when you’re reading this, but I don’t as I write it.

Dangerous Myths

Let me begin by saying that anyone who states any of the following is not only flat out wrong, they are a danger to everyone else:

  • Covid isn’t real (it is)
  • Covid is a hoax (just no)
  • Covid isn’t any worse than the flu (very wrong, here’s why)
  • Covid isn’t that bad (ask those dead people and their families, see here)
  • Covid is just going to go away (guess again)
  • Almost everyone recovers (nope, many are left debilitated)
  • Covid doesn’t affect children (tell that to my friend whose 6 -year-old is dead, see this article)
  • Masks are an attempt to take our rights away (think drunk-driving laws and seat belts)
  • Masks don’t work (wrong, view this)
  • Covid only kills “old people” or people “something is wrong with anyway” (this thinking horrifies me)

Not only is that last statement incorrect, but it’s also a horrible statement, all by itself.

Update – please note this compiled resource titled “You asked, we’re answering: Your top Coronavirus questions” for questions and answers about Covid, including sources.

And yes, those are actual quotes that I’ve heard SINCE my cousin was diagnosed in late July. Not months ago when no one knew much about this virus, this month, the month where we’ve crossed 5.6 million Covid cases in the US alone, the month where deaths have topped 174,000. Oops, that was yesterday. Today that number has grown by 1,113 to more than 175,000 and that total is assuredly significantly undercounted.

That’s the size of Pembroke Pines, Florida, Salem, Oregon, the state capital, Oceanside, California, Newport News, Virginia or Providence, Rhode, Island, another state capital. There are many smaller cities, including 8 more state capitals. Check it out here.

If a bomb had dropped and annihilated every single resident of one of these cities, the entire country would be in mourning and everybody would be doing everything possible to help. But there is no collective effort to do anything as simple as even wearing a mask to eradicate this preventible Covid-bomb.

If anyone came across a car flipped upside down in a lake with someone trapped inside, and all they had to do was put on a mask and the trapped person would magically be levitated out of the car, with no risk whatsoever to the mask-wearer, every decent person would be donning that mask immediately. They would be lauded as a hero, yet every single one of the 175,000 deaths that have occurred since spring is the direct result of someone ELSE not taking appropriate precautions.

Our personal safety is directly connected to the actions of the unknown people around us – unless somehow we can manage to stay home, contact-free entirely for the duration. Click either image above or below to enlarge.

Now the bad news – we’re on track to cross 300,000 deaths by Thanksgiving.

Those predicted death numbers may be LOW, depending on what happens between now and then. Best case, with universal mask-wearing beginning now, that total would “only” grow to a quarter million. Another 75,000 dead souls, families suffering, and that’s the best case.

If you click the above image to enlarge, look at “mandates easing” where the death toll is north of 540,000. Keep in mind, schools have just opened, in-person in many places. You can’t eat in a restaurant or gather in groups, but hundreds of kids can be together without masks all day. Talk about an infection vector for the entire community. What is wrong with this picture?

You could be one of those deaths, or someone you love, including children.

Even the kids understand, at least some of them. The headline of the student newspaper, the Observer, from ill-prepared Notre Dame University reads, “Don’t make us write obituaries.”

The US has more than a quarter of the deaths worldwide, yet we only have 4.25% of the world population.

How can anyone read these numbers and not realize there’s something TERRIBLY wrong here and that Covid is excruciatingly real.

If I sound outraged, I am. Frankly, I’m furious. Furious about the needless suffering and deaths of all the people I’ve already told you about in my past pandemic journal articles. Now, for my friend’s brother that died 4 days ago, and no, he was not co-morbid and was only 44. There was nothing “wrong” with him. Outraged about the unnecessary pain being experienced across this country.

And, for my cousin and his family.

My Cousin’s Story

I’m sharing my cousin’s story, disguised to obfuscate his identity. His identity doesn’t matter, because his story is the exact same story of thousands and thousands of other people. Multiply this by 175,000 plus another thousand or so people added every single day.

Not everyone who becomes ill with Covid dies, but 175,000+ people have been mowed down one-by-one by the Covid-monster, and this is their story too – and that of their families and friends. Not to mention all of those undercounted and who died later of complications. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the actual count is double or more.

Many who become very ill with Covid and don’t perish, don’t fully recover either. We’re only just learning the extent of the after-affects because Covid hasn’t even been with us a year. Yet it has ruined countless lives across the globe and is no place near finished.

I’m calling my cousin “Bob,” just for purposes of reference. I met Bob through genealogy, just like I’ve met so many of my dear cousins. My immediate family is very small, and I’ve been very blessed over the years to make connections with many cousins with whom I’ve forged long-lasting relationships. If you are thinking, “well, at least this wasn’t someone close to her,” you’d be wrong. When you have a small family, others, if you’re lucky, become your family-of-heart.

Bob and I researched our common genealogical line together, sharing frustrations and victories. He looked forward to the day when he could retire and spend more time on genealogy research. We planned our next avenue of attack.

Bob’s is in his early 50s. In fact, I think he “celebrated” his birthday while in a Covid coma, in the hospital on a vent. Happy Birthday Bob.

Bob was fortunate because, in his profession, he could work from home. He did and always wore a mask when he absolutely had to go out. He even ordered his groceries and wiped them down.

Bob lived in a city that became a Covid hotspot this summer. So much for the virus being destroyed by heat. He became even more cautious. Covid got him anyway.

His Facebook profile photo shows Bob wearing a mask, setting a good example, and he encouraged others to wear masks too. He washed his hands, often, and was sad that he couldn’t see family members. Bob lived alone. His children had fledged before Covid.

Just 42 long days ago, Bob decided to attend a family birthday party. It was inside, but he told me that everyone had been distancing from others, washing hands, and wearing masks. He was missing his family terribly and wanted to go.

I know how he felt, because those of us who have been the MOST cooped up are feeling the effects the most profoundly. You look at these opportunities and wonder, if you don’t attend, if you’ll ever get another opportunity. Someone there could die, including you. You’re squandering the days of your life missing out when others get to have fun, laugh, and you’re alone, in isolation. Stuck at home. Without your family. Looking at pictures of everyone else enjoying themselves. And most of the time, nothing bad happens, which of course makes you feel like it’s safer than it is. I mean, what are the chances, right?

No wonder depression is rampant and alcohol purchases are up 25%.

With Covid, you only get to be wrong once and other people are contagious long before they have any idea they have it.

Bob was exceedingly grateful for Facebook, social media and smartphones so he could connect with people, especially his kids – and talked about how difficult quarantine was.

He especially loved dogs and cats and enjoyed walking outside in the open where he could see other people’s dogs, although he didn’t ask to pet them anymore because that makes distancing awkward and difficult.

As it would turn out, Bob was “safe” at home, not “stuck at home,” although that’s certainly how it feels some days – especially when you’re watching other people engaging in the activities you want to do.

Bob attended that party. He told me a few days later that everyone there, EXCEPT ONE PERSON, wore a mask.

EXCEPT ONE PERSON

Two days later, Bob and I were chattering, exchanging our favorite memories of John Lewis who had passed away. John inspired Bob who told me that John “never bowed,” inspired him to do better, be better, be courageous, and to stand up for what is right. His favorite photo of John was walking with children at Comic-Con, lighting the way for a future generation.

The next day, Bob asked if anyone knew where there was a rapid Covid testing location, couching the question as “asking for a friend.” Queue up nervous laughter. No one wanted to be nosey and ask, but rest assured, every one of us wanted to know.

Bob took every opportunity to educate positively, and Covid was no exception.

Bob obviously found a Covid testing location, because two days later, just 6 or 7 days after the party, he posted that he had tested positive, then explained that his symptoms began with a cough but no fever, so he thought it was just bronchitis. Then, the rest of the symptoms followed, one-by-one, including a few non-standard symptoms like diarrhea and nausea. The fever seemed to be the LAST traditional symptom to develop.

Surely, he thought, he couldn’t have Covid. Everyone except one person wore masks and they distanced as best they could inside. And it was only once, one event. He had only taken one slight chance.

Bob’s Facebook feed was filled with well-wishers, of course, but also of some people who either currently had Covid or had had Covid recently, offering advice. Others were, themselves, waiting for test results.

I suspect if you posted on your Facebook page and asked how many have had Covid, you’d be quite surprised. I personally know several. Many people don’t talk about it, because there is some level of social stigma attached. ESPECIALLY if they haven’t been wearing a mask or have been out-and-about without distancing – because no one likes to hear “I told you so,” even if it’s unspoken.

Bob and I messaged and emailed back and forth. We discussed the situation in a couple of exchanges, then…..silence.

SILENCE

Do you have any idea how difficult silence is to endure when you know that someone you care about has Covid?

You have no idea how you’re going to find out what is going on. All you can do is wait, and attempt patience.

Bob’s friends and family who live distantly, me included, began posting encouraging but not nosey notes of encouragement on his timeline.

We all knew something was very wrong, because silence is not like Bob. Neither are short postings. Bob is never at a loss for words.

Three days later, one sentence. “I’m in the hospital.”

A family member posted a few hours later that he was stable. Thank goodness.

Exhale.

The next day, they started Bob on Remdesivir, but two days later, one word from Bob on his Facebook feed.

“ICU”

A few hours later, Bob posted that he was feeling better, and again another few hours later, just a couple words.

I heaved a huge sigh of relief, because although he was in ICU, he was obviously on the mend and improving. That’s the purpose of the ICU, but he was clearly very ill.

The next day, Bob posted a very odd message that he was listening to a specific song. When I listened to the lyrics, I wondered if he was trying to tell us something. I was relieved that he was finding comfort in music, and that was allowed in ICU. I hoped he had a phone charger and earbuds.

And then, for 6 days, there was nothing at all.

Not. One. Peep.

I know Bob’s family had to be going through living hell, so I wasn’t about to bother them. Not only was he obviously critical, but they couldn’t be with him. Bob was even more “alone” than he had ever been at home, and in a much worse way.

I remember vividly when my former husband had a massive stroke at age 47. He had been fine. There was nothing wrong with him until our world fell apart – much like Covid.

Then, a few days later, another stroke, then blood clots, DVTs that moved into pulmonary embolisms. Every minute of every hour of every day could be his last – and that went on for days, weeks and then months. Death by inches. The difference is that we knew he wasn’t contagious AND I was sleeping in the chair in his hospital room for much of the time.

That period of time was so horrific that I literally came away with what could probably be considered PTSD. It affected other family members in different ways, none of them good, literally tearing the family and family members into shreds.

Bob’s family, I’m sure, is experiencing even more extreme stress, watching him deteriorate from a distance with a cascading series of critical issues – any one of which could take his life – unable to comfort or touch him.

Bob’s last message was 22 days ago.

He was put on a vent and remains in a medically-induced coma.

Every few days, a family member updates the rest of us.

Updates

First, I’m extremely grateful for any news, because otherwise all I would be able to do is google daily for an obituary. How morbid is that?

Bob’s family has been riding an emotional roller coaster. They are living in the first ring of hell, closest to the fire. Been there, done that and no one escapes unscathed. The pain never abates or stops.

I remember all too well: “Oh, we have improvement. He’s getting better.” Only to be followed by: “Can you step into the consultation room please.” That room should just have been labeled the “bad news” room because, trust me, good news was not conveyed there. Just those words struck terror into your heart. And if the doctor called your phone, it was critical. I remember my phone ringing once while I was in line in the hospital cafeteria, just minutes after I had left my husband’s bedside. I just left everything where it was and literally ran.

For days, I’ve checked for information about Bob the last thing at night before I go to sleep, first thing in the morning before I get out of bed, and roughly every hour in-between. It’s emotionally exhausting, and I’m no place close to the first ring of hell where his family is living right now.

I can’t even make him a care quilt, because he obviously can’t have anything in Covid ICU, and even if he could, he couldn’t take it home with him for fear of exposing others.

Six days after the final message from Bob, his kidneys failed. Bedside surgical dialysis, because on a vent, he can’t go to the dialysis center.

Still hoping for a full recovery.

I couldn’t help but think to myself that I, at age 38, was entirely unprepared to deal with the sudden onslaught of medical terminology and rapid-fire leaning that had to occur in order to advocate for my husband. Bob’s poor kids, much younger than I was at the time, must be struggling mightily. My heart goes out to them. I wish I could help.

Then, more days of silence.

On my end of the world, my cat, Phoenix, our rescued fur-child died, my friend’s brother died of Covid, and two close family members are in need of immediate care quilts which means they may need other types of assistance as well. The nastiness on social media has ramped up. I have friends whose homes are threatened by wildfires in California and I don’t even want to talk about the stress surrounding my husband’s job. Things are coming a bit unraveled. Together, we’re managing. Thank Heavens the flowers are blooming and I can walk outside in the yard.

chaos glads

A rogue gladiola has popped up, somehow. Could it be a wink from Dad on the other side that somehow, things are going to be alright? I want to believe that.

Still Hopeful

I check many times every day for news about Bob and try to remain positive.

Seven days later, a family member says that Bob’s kidneys are improved, thank God, BUT now he has blood clots and a blood infection. He’s still on the vent and in a coma.

The family is discouraged but still hopeful for a full recovery. Imagine the story Bob’s going to hear about what happened during that coma when he is revived.

By the time we finally received the blood clot news, Bob had been on a vent for 13 days. All I can say is that I hope his brain is actually silenced and asleep and he’s not suffering in a “closed in” way.

More silence, then hopeful news. Bob’s oxygen levels had improved and so had the blood infection. Hurray!!!!

Permission to be hopeful. Bob was headed in the right direction.

Roller Coaster

But then, two days later, the roller coaster plunged again. Bob has a new and different type of blood infection, AND the blood clot in his leg moved to his lungs which means it’s a pulmonary embolism.

I lived through this with my husband. Pulmonary embolisms can be fatal without the complications of Covid. My husband said it was the worst pain he had ever experienced in his life. He begged to die. Maybe the coma is a good thing for Bob right now.

Bob’s family said they would update us as soon as they had something to report.

That was 4 days ago – 98 hours and counting.

Radio Silence

I know his family members are suffering terribly. It must be exceedingly difficult for them to post updates when the last thing they feel like doing is posting to social media. Sometimes reducing things to words is more than the mind can bear, especially when you’re trying to remain positive, but the news isn’t. Not to mention they may not be ready for a deluge of communications.

Grieving, especially real-time in public, is difficult at best and something most of us have little experience with. No one wants that baptism-by-fire experience either.

I’m sure they are completely overwhelmed. I can only hope they have some sort of support.

I pray that no news means Bob hasn’t passed and that he is on the road to recovery. That’s all I can do. I feel entirely helpless. Perhaps telling his story will help even just one person avoid Covid.

As for me, I’ve had a headache for more than a week now, and I’m still checking for news every hour or so. Compared to the utter hell and agony that his family is living through, my experience is nothing. I’m sure it’s just cumulative stress because, well, you know, 2020.

Checking…

Waiting…

Checking…

Waiting…

Bottom Line: Wear the Mask, Stay Home, Wash Your Hands

Here’s the bottom line:

chaos wear the mask.png

  • Wear the mask
  • Stay home or stay distant
  • Wash your hands

I did not ask Bob if the person at the party who did not wear a mask had tested Covid-positive. They could never have tested if they were asymptomatic and never knew they were spreading death and misery at a level beyond anyone’s imagination.

Does whoever gave Covid to Bob know that they are responsible for his illness and perhaps his death? Probably not.

It’s possible that Bob picked the virus up elsewhere, NOT at the party. We have community spread throughout the US now. Maybe getting gas or who knows. However, if everyone had worn a mask and isolated, all at once, in the spring, and weren’t taking unnecessary chances, we’d have wrestled this viral scourge to the ground months ago and it would not be burning through our population like a wildfire consuming dry timber.

Stay safe at home. If you don’t need to expose yourself, don’t. Just don’t. If you could ask Bob if any outing is worth the price he’s paying – I know what his answer would be and so do you.

The devastation on Bob’s life, assuming he lives, may include life-long disability.

If Bob passes away, his hospital bills will decimate his estate.

If he lives, those bills may wipe out his retirement nest-egg, if they don’t force him into outright bankruptcy. My husband’s hospital bill was in the millions. Thankfully, insurance paid most of it, but it took me years to pay the balance even AFTER I used all the retirement funds.

If anyone seriously doesn’t know someone who has had a severe case of Covid, or a family who has suffered through this, PLEASE send this article to them. Although, at this point, I’m beginning to think that people who oppose wearing masks and continue spouting talking-points that justify their anti-mask and anti-distancing positions are engaged in willful ignorance.

Think about all of those 175,000+ people who have died. Every single one of those families is going through this or some similar experience. These deaths are torturous, not just for the victim, but for their family and friends too.

Some people who “recover” don’t completely recover, even though they don’t die.

The toll a Covid illness takes isn’t just on the patient, but radiates like ripples in a pond, affecting their immediate and distant family, ripping a hole in the stability of their family fabric, inflicting trauma that will never heal. Those ripples spread further into the community and society as well, through networks of friends and colleagues. While every single family is individually devastated, with their own hell-version of this story, the tentacles reach throughout our society, destabilizing everything from family units to the economy.

And you want to know what’s worse – we are still NOT in control of this virus.

We’ll have another 175,000 deaths before long unless we change our approach. We’re headed into winter when people are back inside, flu season hits and schools are reconvening in person now.

When I titled this article “Chaos,” I was referring not just to what is happening to my cousin’s family and friends, but to the pit of hell inferno and unrelenting sorrow that the rest of us collectively are staring into if we don’t do something different, and quickly.

The best predictor of future performance is what happened in the past – and 175,000 deaths over 6 months is a grim prediction. There’s still time to change our collective behavior, but we absolutely must if we want to slow and stop this raging wildfire. There is no miracle cure. The only thing that can save us – is us.

Slow Dancing In A Burning Room

It’s not a silly little moment
It’s not the storm before the calm
This is the deep and dyin’ breath of
This love we’ve been workin’ on

We’re goin’ down
And you can see it too
We’re goin’ down
And you know that we’re doomed
My dear
We’re slow dancing in a burnin’ room

Don’t you think we outta know by now?
Don’t you think we shoulda learned somehow?

chaos just wear it.png

Epilog

August 25th – My cousin, Bob, died today, a month to the day after he was diagnosed and 28 days after being admitted to ICU. Yesterday, just four hours before he died, his family posted that while he still had bacterial pneumonia and blood clots, that his lungs were improving. Then, he was gone. His body just couldn’t fight anymore.

This monster took him, but not with out the assistance of the legions of people who refuse to wear masks. They killed him just as assuredly as if someone had driven drunk and hit him. The difference being that because we can’t trace this virus back to the string of people who transmitted it, the responsible parties can glibly live their own lives, in full denial of the havoc, wake of destruction and grief that they are leaving behind.

105 thoughts on “Pandemic Journal: Chaos

  1. First let me say: 1 I live in Canada. 2. I am now 80 years old. 3. From the middle of February I have been reading articles regarding COVID-19 from scientists. 4. It is my feeling that the medical community worldwide has not been upfront with people as based on the scientific research that wearing gloves is far more important than wearing a face mask, which is also a good idea. Until we stop spreading the virus by touching objects touched by infected people (who may not even know they are infected) we will not contain this virus. So far none of my friends or relatives have been infected as they are all following my protocols not those of the media. Stay home! Wear gloves outside your own home! Wear a face mask outside your home!. The scientists have it right — the doctors do not. I feel sad for all the misinformed people who are losing their lives, and the lives of their loved ones. Why has the medical community not listened to the scientists?

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