Just over six years ago my husband, Joe, nearly died after contracting a seasonal flu. He spent more than three weeks in the ICU and was intubated because he wouldn’t breath on his own.
Once Joe had recovered from the flu, he spent another week in a rehab center so he could learn to walk, dress, bath and use the bathroom by himself again. When he came home, he wasn’t able to climb the stairs to our bedroom on the second floor, so the bed had to be moved into the living room.
The theory of confirmation bias tells me that most people on my social media news feed already agree with my views of the pandemic.
But think about this for a moment: if my social media friends are correct, and 40-70% of the population will come down with Covid-19, and 3% are projected to die (that’s the 97% survival rate so many people want to cling to), how many hundreds of thousands of people will not live through what my husband did? How many who might have lived if there were sufficient resources will instead succumb because of the lack of care because the system is overwhelmed?
How can our medical infrastructure possibly care for so many people who might normally recover with the level of intensive medical treatment that my husband received in a non-pandemic situation, when they are overwhelmed with patients as we are seeing happen in New York?
Did I mention that when we arrived at the hospital, there was not a bed available in the ICU for my husband? We had to spend a full day and night in the ER waiting. Once Joe was in the ICU, we saw only one other person with the same symptoms. She died shortly after we arrived.
The entire time my husband was in the hospital, I was by his side all day every day. I arrived early in the morning before rounds and left only long enough to eat dinner and grab a few hours of sleep.
For the first few weeks, each day of rounds meant an update on his decline. I kept an electronic diary of his progress that I shared with family and friends, but I often left out the part about his failing internal organs, and the very real possibility that his respiratory system would fail. I struggled with the knowledge that I might have make the decision to remove life support.
Fast forward to 2020 and a Covid-19 pandemic. If Joe got sick now, there is a very real possibility that he would not recover, not because we now live in a different area with a different hospital system, but because he would be one of dozens, hundreds or thousands of people with the same illness. I would not be able to sit with him; there would be no electronic diary. I would be forced to Shelter-in-Place alone, waiting.
So we are following the Shelter-in-Place order as best we can. When we go to any store, we wear masks and gloves and disinfect everything before it comes into the house. We were out of place in the first weeks of the SIP because we insisted on wearing masks even when it was not recommended. We both deal with depression outside of the SIP, so like so many others we are struggling with self-care. This sucks, but it is infinitely better than an alternative I don’t care to live through ever again.