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Monday, December 14, 2020

Reflections about my real life Covid experience (and what I didn't realize)




*our 2019 Christmas trip to Utah for our bank's annual festivities. Another cancelled event.



On the first Tuesday in December, I was in the car talking to a close friend in a moment of panic, wondering what we should do about my Dad’s sudden decline in his battle with COVID-19. 

From my moving car on Beach Boulevard, the distant view of the ocean was already dark, and Michael was due home from his six-hour drive from Sacramento at any moment, when my brother Mike called to report that my Dad’s breathing had taken a turn for the worse.

Turns out that both my parents—despite their hyper-vigilance with mask-wearing and social distancing—had gotten Covid during Thanksgiving week. By the time Jim drove up to Sacramento with a U-Haul to move Michael back to Huntington Beach to begin his new job, my brother, who met them at Michael’s apartment to help load his heavier belongings, already had Covid too, but didn’t know it.

The following day, after their brief U-Haul meeting, Jim and Michael got a call from Uncle Mike telling them he had tested positive for Covid, so they both promptly went and got tested themselves.

Welcome to life during a global pandemic.

Thankfully, both Michael and Jim tested negative.

But several days into his own Covid experience- my Dad—age 79, with a pacemaker and with a compromised respiratory system—was in a precarious condition and we found ourselves experiencing the frightening reality of this highly contagious virus.  

Even after consulting with his physician, the answers left us struggling.

I remember Michael sitting at the kitchen table after his long drive, looking tired and unshaven, his car still loaded with boxes from his relocation, offering to turn right around and help us drive the 394 miles back to Sacramento, if Papa was admitted to the hospital. Jim had just walked in from work and I was on the kitchen stool, all of us fresh off a conference call with my brother. Under the bright lights of our kitchen, and six hours away from my siblings, we were facing a dilemma that every family affected by Covid could face.

At what tipping point do we take my Dad to the hospital, where he gets the benefit of professional care but faces complete isolation from all family, and risks constant exposure in a hospital setting already overwhelmed with the current spike in Covid-patients?

Do we—Jim, Michael and I--make the six- hour drive knowing we wouldn't be able to see my Dad or any of my Covid-positive family?

Talking earlier with Tracy had helped me process the situation and get my emotions back in check.

And like a lot of other family members across the country right now, we took a vote, put the emphasis on my Dad’s gut reaction (he did not want to go to the hospital)--and we decided to keep him home where he was watched and cared for primarily by my Covid-positive brother and mother.

I guess we were the fortunate ones. My brother who was already positive for Covid—opted to spend nights at my parent’s home where he could monitor Dad's medication and oximeter readings. My mother, who tested positive too, was sleeping a lot. But it was my brother who had my Dad—with his vulnerable lungs--get up and move around regularly, and kept him from sleeping on his back too long. Meanwhile Jim and I were reading the latest trends for Covid treatment, and sharing the info in quick calls.

 

But we all learned the hard truth 

when my Dad was most vulnerable and here it is: there is no clear medical protocol for anyone at home with Covid. 

There is no hovering physician who will swoop in and admit a Covid patient at the mere hint of worsening symptoms and blast their weakening bodies with Remdesivir or dexamethasone in those scary early days--- when my Dad described his breathing as a 1 or 2 on a scale of ten.

No, my Dad's struggle to breath was a crisis moment that could easily have turned worse, requiring an urgent drive to the hospital. Because until then, you're basically on your own.

Although if you do get admitted to a hospital at this point---you should be informed that your chances of  getting the same experimental Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody cocktail drug that was given to President Trump, Housing Secretary Ben Carson, Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie and Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani during his recent stay---are slim to none.

That’s because the drug Regeneron is still not readily available to ordinary citizens yet. These are the kind of facts you don’t learn until someone you love gets Covid.

In a recent interview on WABC, Rudy Giuliani is quoted explaining it this way, “If it wasn’t me, I wouldn’t have been put in a hospital frankly. Sometimes when you’re a celebrity, they’re worried if something happens to you, so they’re going to examine it more carefully, and do everything right.”


Fortunately at the time of this writing, our non-celebrity family is beginning to slowly exhale. And it looks like my Dad will survive this virus—although not before teaching us firsthand-- of the scary unpredictability about this condition. In this next week he’ll see his doctor to rule out the possibility of pneumonia.

In the meantime, my neighbor got out of her car on Thursday after an exhausting day at the hospital, still dressed in her hospital garb and appeared on the verge of tears. She described the ambulances now forced to wait outside with potential patients because of the spike in Covid cases. And she sounded stressed and upset about the continual protests in our local Orange County. Before she went inside her home she warned, if you need to go to the hospital, don’t go to ours.

Some time later on social media, another neighbor only a few houses down who keeps a Trump sign up in her yard, posted photos of her beautifully decorated Hanukkah party, filled with sweet children and their mothers smiling in their special Christmas dresses, with not a mask in sight. And with a message underneath that said: “Fuck Newsom.” A reference to California's governor.

 Sigh. Welcome to life during a global pandemic.


last year at Hotel Monaco



Tell me.

What have you been learning about yourself as you live through these unprecedented months of a global pandemic?

The interesting thing about writing blog posts is that you can look back and see what you didn’t know.

In April I wrote about my belief that COVID-19 might unify us as a country because we would all be experiencing the same vulnerability and fears and sadness, as we moved through our individual situations.

I even asked:

Can you think of another time when we will be able to look into the eyes of strangers and recognize our Selves?


Things I didn't realize


Was I na├»ve? I don’t know. But 'unify' is about as far away from the truth as you can get.

At the time, I don’t think any of us imagined the eventual impact Covid would have on our daily lives, the way mask-wearing would become politicized and contribute to the spread of Covid. The repeated closure of businesses. And the perilous impact on whole industries of workers who are losing their jobs and paychecks. 

And here’s a big one. I didn’t fully understand the extent to which it’s now possible in the year 2020, to live inside an information bubble where certain facts and relevant information never penetrates, and where conspiracy theories and hoaxes are lurking everywhere.

I didn’t realize how much easier it is---when something difficult happens in your life—to look out at the world for someone or something to blame for what you’re having to endure. Because god knows, there will always be someone we can shift our blame to, in order to avoid the deeper feelings inside us. The real feelings of being afraid. And sad. And the uncomfortable truth that no one ever wants to hear: maybe there is no quick and easy fix-it for our distressing predicament. Maybe we might have to just sit with our feelings...and feel them.

And finally, I never realized how easy it is when you’re walking around feeling outraged, to find other big groups of angry people to unite with online--and how fast fear can spread like wildfire, remaining mostly invisible to the very people who are inside its powerful grip.

 


 Apparently I don’t know very much.

It is possible that the altered state I've been living in following our traumatic loss of Patrick, has made me more accepting of this wet cloud of uncertainty that’s settled over us in 2020. And that the staggering pain from losing a child has opened me up to the suffering of other people in a way that's dulled my ability to care about loud protests over our individual “rights,” especially when the trade-off might mean the death of the most vulnerable people.

Maybe my perspective has changed in ways I don't even know.

But once you’ve lost the most important person in your life in a split-second, there is nothing worse. And when the possibility of losing my Dad became a close reality, I realized I was already nested inside that incredulous universe where bad things happen suddenly to good people--and no amount of rebelling and blaming others and carrying signs of protest will be able to expunge one horror-stricken second from my life. And yet, I will never be a 'victim' because I will choose love over anger every time.

I think that’s it, in a nutshell.

But I have my moments like anyone else. When I’m worn and tired of this post-Covid scale of measuring risks with social distancing, when I'll simply throw up my hands and say, what the fuck.

I remember one moment recently.

I had pulled over and parked my car so I could reach the man who stands at Warner and Magnolia with a sign every day. His name is Mike and he told me he got laid off from his job months ago and lives out of his van and I told him about Patrick as I handed him the kindness card with money. Suddenly. Before I could react, this sweet, homeless man yanked down the blue bandana that was covering his toothless smile, told me how sorry he was and reached across the sidewalk and hugged me.

Before I knew what happened it was over. I could feel the people sitting in traffic next to the sidewalk watching us, and I didn’t react. 

I just smiled and finished our conversation.

Afterwards, in one of those exasperated, head-shaking moments, I remember doing a quick mental review of my risk, and thinking, ‘Jesus Christ-if-I-get-Covid-from-that-situation, so be it.”

I mean. How much of our humanity are we supposed to give-up to be safe? 

Right?

Sometimes all we can do is take a deep breath and let go.


photo taken on our walk Sunday

 


 Sending love and light your way,

Leslie

 

 


19 comments:

  1. "I will never be a victim because I will choose love over anger every time." That statement summarizes much of what I've learned from you. You are such a beautiful example of this, and I know that Patrick is watching and is proud of you. Love you, sweet Leslie.

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    1. Thank you Kim. I can’t think of a nicer compliment than to imagine Patrick being proud of me. You also have been a blessing in my life.
      xo

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    2. Hi Leslie
      I just wanted to thank you for sharing your heart and soul during the last 2 years. I had read this last post about your parents having covid. I was totally in shocked. As I totally love your parents, as I've known them for years. Sadly for me I listed my husband of 41 years to covid last week. He fought like crazy for 24 days. The doctors gave us grim hope, but I never gave up nor my family. He fought ,so we fought. I let him choose his way , not the doctors . And so as of right now I feel at peace. But tomorrow i dont know what it will bring.. I Just wanted to thank you for sharing your journey with your readers, as I believe it will help me in my healing to share as well.

      Thank you Ramona

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  2. Leslie, sending love and light your way as well. I'm relieved your dad has improved. I honestly don't know what to think about the mess our country is in. Why folks deny and don't take caution, I fully don't understand. Though fortunately I've not had any personal experience with COVID, in my heart I knew that the drugs given to high profile politicos were not the norm for most, it saddens me to read it in print. Like you, I'm tired! I haven't experienced the loss you live with, but I know my life feels different. I feel different about life! Yes, it's the little things we need to value. Take care, dear friend.

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    1. Sarah I’m so happy to hear you and those in your life have been staying healthy. It’s been a long year my friend, hasn’t it? And yes, I share your confusion about the intense tribalism that’s taken hold of our country. I have to limit my political news because I find the sight of Americans expressing hate at fellow Americans to be beyond depressing. But I have hope that love will prevail. Eventually. Take care, sending you big hug!

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  3. Leslie, you are able to put into words what a lot of us are thinking, and you do it so well. My 87 year old mom and extended family are "careful" wearing masks in public, but also have close contact with friends who do not mask unless they have to in public. So in reality they are not careful. so frustrating. I haven't been able to see them all year because of this. I'm so glad your dad and family are improving. I think it's been a common misconception that there is medication for covid at home, when in reality there isn't. This year (and the last 4) have been mind-boggling how people have lived in some kind of zombie delusion due to their choices in TV channel news and social media. It's felt hopeless at times, just wondering how our country will ever come back together. Thankyou for sharing your heart with us; praying you'll have a blessed and happy Christmas. xo

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    1. Debra. Thank you. It’s always such a wonderful relief to hear someone express such similar views. A kind of “Zombie delusion” is exactly how it looks from the outside. And its gotten worse in the last four years. Thankfully the majority of Americans do value science and Truth, and I do believe the end is in sight with the pending vaccines. Sending prayers for your mother’s health and yours. Take care Debra.
      Love you.

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  4. Oh Leslie...I'm so sorry to hear about your family. My family lives in Sacramento and I have heard covid is bad there. My sister-in-law lost a family member last month. I hope they are starting to feel better and get on the other side of it. It really has been quite a weird year full of uncertainty. Sending love and keeping you all in my prayers...xo

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  5. "I will never be a victim because I will choose love over anger every time." Repeat, "I will never be a victim because I will choose love over anger every time." We need this as a mantra. I need this as a mantra. Perfect timing to really hear it! Thank you, thank you! I love your blog - you come from your soul.
    Olwyn

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  6. OH I LOVE THE MIKE STORY!!!
    I ALSO LOVE THE "WALK" PHOTO!
    IS THAT NEWPORT?
    I AM SO SO SORRY ABOUT YOUR FAMILY AND COVID!WHAT AN ORDEAL AND WHAT YOU MUST HAVE BEEN CONTEMPLATING!
    Now,did I miss a post about THE SON working in SACRAMENTO?
    Through work he got transfered back HOME!!!?
    I read this morning an IMMIGRANT from HUNGRY came up with SOMETHING for the VACCINE to go ahead!Being a woman in the science field had not been easy either.....she was very HUMBLE.It was a really touching interview with Chris Cuomo in New York.
    I am SO HAPPY YOUR DAD is going to pull through!!!
    XOXO

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  7. So glad to hear your dad is pulling through. I am at a loss for words. I never could have imagined that a pandemic and public health emergency could become so politicised. It's been hard trying to cope with all the same news and inane comments on social media. I've practically stopped using Facebook and generally stick to blogs I love and beautiful photos on Instagram. You could say I'm living in my own little bubble surrounded by like- minded people. But I'm not ready to trade my peace of mind and sanity for the alternative.

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  8. Leslie,
    I love your understanding of what's going on with the anger that seems to be residing in so many. Your attitude is what we need more of. My walking buddy and I talk about how angry so many people are. We've pledged to be kind no matter what. It's all we can do, spread kindness. I wish your family, especially your dad, continued recovery, and I pray this pandemic will be in the rearview mirror sooner than later.
    xo,
    Karen

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  9. Hello Leslie,
    I am praying for your dad and your family.

    "I will never be a victim because I will choose love over anger every time." Thank you for these words Leslie.
    It has been a difficult December for our family. Thank you for sharing your light and love.
    Carla

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  10. Leslie,

    First, I'm so relieved that your father, mother, and brother recovered from Covid. I can identify with so many of the feelings and frustrations you went through. You have a way of getting right at the core of what you know and want to say. I read each and every word carefully, especially near the end of your post and how you thought about your grief and the present time of insane loss and pain.

    Covid was always a huge reality from and thus, fear in every waking moment because I'm a severe asthmatic. I'm waiting for insurance approval for the next and perhaps last chance at controlling it with injectables. That said, I absolutely have no doubt I would most likely not survive given how Covid affects the respiratory system. So I have been beyond careful. I also have to monitor my husband as he sometimes forgets to wear the mask or distance himself from others. Luckily he doesn't like to leave the house.

    I posted on Instagram that we lost Papa in early November. I didn't give details for the sake of privacy. My father in law would have been 90 years old this past Saturday. He was a career fire fighter, and retired after he rose to Fire Chief in one of the most run down areas of Chicago with never a dull moment at the firehouse. All those years and smoke and fumes inhalation took a toll on his lungs and in his early eighties he had lung cancer which required a partial removal of a lobe, and then he developed emphysema and COPD. But it was controlled and he was sharper than a whip. It took a fill-in caregiver who came to his home while positive with the virus, and not only did Papa contract it but several family members who took care of him. So it was just as you thought with your father. Look in a window at him? Communicate via phone and FaceTime while he was wearing an oxygen mask? Papa passed a week after his admission and he had been moved to hospital hospice so he didn't pass alone. I said my goodbye's and I love you's when they held the phone to his ear. He looked like he was sleeping but I hope he heard.

    I get absolutely furious when people get away without wearing a mask simply because a shop owner doesn't enforce it. I don't say a word. It can quickly become ugly. Twice I felt I was being bullied by a non-mask wearer. As man grinned at me when I noticed him in a fast food pickup line indoors...total defiance. Another time in Michigan I had a true deadbeat inches behind me in a line at a store. The floor was clearly marked in six feet spaces. As I inched forward, he did also, always inches behind me, and of course, no mask. and he would smile.

    I read recently about a village in a country which I can't remember, that people who were caught not following the mask mandate were forced to serve time digging the gravesites of victims. And that was a a job where they would never run out of work.

    Jane ❤️❤️❤️

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  11. I hear you loud and clear Les. I lost my Aunt, a Dr, to covid in June. It hit me like a ton of bricks as we had been speaking a few days before.
    We watch here in the UK how it has gone up in the US and it just baffles me how some are just not worried. I see photos of friends in parts of the US all mixing and mingling without masks etc. It is a little better here, but not much! People have just lost trust in what the Government is "feeding" us on the news. It feels more and more like we are living in China or North Korea! Consequently people are doing their own thing. London went back into full lockdown yesterday and my heart just bleeds for all the small businesses, such as restaurants etc that were geared up for their busiest week of the year. It's all soooo sad.

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  12. Leslie I was so pleased to have met you through Elizabeth , our dear Contessa.
    So pleased your father and other family are now recovering , what a difficult time for you all. I find it difficult to understand as an Australian the politicising of what should be health advice for the protection of all citizens.
    The loss of one of our children does change your way of thinking in so many different ways.I too refused to be a victim of anger on what was out of my control .
    Sending kindest regards, Jill xx

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  13. Leslie, so relieved to hear your Dad, Mum and brother have recovered from covid.
    This is a year we will never forget.
    Sending love to you this festive season and hope that 2021 will be filled with love, joy and happiness, Vikki XxXxXx

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  14. I am so sorry your family experienced Covid, but happy to hear they're on the mend. Covid scares me every single day with my husband working outside the home and my son working in retail in CA.

    Choosing love over anger is a wonderful mantra to remember...thank you.

    Wishing you and your family a beautiful Christmas.

    xoxo

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  15. Hi Leslie,
    I am late leaving this comment as you posted this news about your dad in December, but wanted to say that I hoped everything was ok with him, your brother and your mother. It's such a smart-ass disease. I sometimes feel we are living in a version of Shirley Jackson's The Lottery. Waiting to see who this virus is going to choose to target next. We have a government that has mandated masks, so people cannot go into stores without them. Most large stores have security at the door. We don't seem to have many issues with resistance to this.
    I think the aloneness that results from being admitted to a hospital is high on the list of Most Awful Things to Face with Covid. If you drop someone at a hospital here in Vancouver, you cannot go past the door. You shall not pass, says covid. I experienced this about the same time in December with a family member, having to leave them at the door of emergency. WTF was reverberating in my head, and I felt this huge sense of humanity being stripped away from us by this mean-girl virus. I was not angry at the hospital staff or the rules, I was just in that moment completely stopped in my tracks physically and mentally from being able to comprehend how to let go of the person in front of me. So I am glad that your dad was cared for at home by your brother. I am so glad for your dad, and while i know that your brother had a burden of care and responsibility, it is a wonderful thing to do, and it is so nice to read about this one instance of not letting this virus have the control. Our family has some challenges coming up and it is picturing that aloneness that is hard to shake. It keeps me awake, wakes me up. Not alot of answers right now. Love your posts though. Hope you ok. xx Nancy (stonecropsister)

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