Many of us started this year with cheer, optimism, firm resolutions and in some cases, looking forward to a milestone that was going to happen: promotions, graduations, re-locations, new businesses opening.
It is the end of a decade, also, year of reelections in an already politically charged time in this country.
Despite several warnings from years ago coming from Health , Science and Disease Control experts about the threat of a Pandemic and suggested preparedness on different levels, the world -with the exception of a handful of countries- was not prepared at all for what is happening right now.
I remember first hearing about COVID19 towards the end of January 2020 -back then referred to generically as a Coronavirus.
It sounded like one of many diseases that are so far away; one more virus that the world would easily survive with timely treatments and vaccines for. It felt (to me at least) like living in the US, we were absolutely safe from some disease going on in China. Most of us continued our lives as if nothing had happened. One more piece of news that we listen to and forget about 10 minutes later .
A half a dozen people in China died- is what I heard back in January. Well, more people die per day in Libya, or Syria, or even here in the US due to the Heart Disease or Diabetes, Flu, or a stupid shooting, or even worse, of hunger. Those were my thoughts. My concern really started when the news channels (all the ones I despise and the ones I tolerate as well) were all reporting incessantly about it, specifically the exponential growth and the fact that it had spread to other countries and to passengers on Cruise Ships: the ideal place to spread a virus even faster.
Still, we all went about our business, went to work, went to the gym, ran the endless “soccer mom” miles, went to the movies, met with friends.
All the while, the red zones indicating the spread of COVID-19 on world maps kept growing.
The first week of March, as I was leaving from work, I tripped, lost my balance and fell. The result was a broken Radius, on my right arm.
Besides giving birth and a horrible case of Strep throat I had years ago, this was by far some of the worse painful moments I have lived. I don’t know what scared me the most: the thought of getting into Urgent Care in the middle of a pandemic, or finding out about my three fractures and the potential need of a surgery.
The following 3 weeks were the worst. Pain, and a big heavy cast all the way from my knuckles to my armpit. Then surgery, which was super scary: the idea of being in a hospital, full of people who were hopefully healthy but possibly had the COVID-19 and were asymptomatic was terrifying. Also, my mom died during a surgery, on the table. So, despite our very different ages and health conditions (when she passed), the thought didn’t escape me for a minute.
During these first weeks I was in total mental despair and lost it more than once. And every time I was on the verge of getting extremely upset, I thought about all the people (specially my mom) that have lived with permanent disabilities or -even worse- without a limb. I also thought of the hundreds of people dying each day, or fighting for their lives on a ventilator due do the current Pandemic. That provided me with a whole new perspective on my current situation, my life and the world in general. I also took comfort in remembering that my husband -who all the while was extremely supportive and patient- was in a serious car accident as a teen and had his femur broken into pieces. With the use of a temporary rod, and a long road to recovery, he healed and is perfectly fine today.
My respect for the disabled is now even greater than ever. Not being able to open jars, cut or slice anything, do dishes properly, change bed sheets, fold laundry, carry heavy things using both arms, or just struggling with bathing and getting myself dressed, was very frustrating (I am still not 100% recovered). And asking for help from my kids for half the things I was doing, is something they were not used to, and at times, it was upsetting.
This time of social distancing and working from home 100% has helped me adjust and recover, without the need to drive the kids to school, or myself to work on a 70 mile commute.
We have all seen the virus start, grow, peak and decline in different countries. Some much worse than others, blame it on culture, economical and social readiness, political influences, age average , and who knows what else.
Here in the US, these last 5 weeks, it seems like the world has stopped. Humans have stopped, most of us anyway, but nature keeps on breathing and even thriving in most parts of the world. Skies are clearer, beaches are cleaner. I can only imagine how the reduction of ground traffic has impacted our air quality.
I cant’t say enough about how I admire all the doctors and nurses that are out there (not by choice) trying to save lives, while also fearing for their own. Same goes for all supermarket employees and all other essential workers what are out there every single day. Teachers have had to completely shift gears and change the way teach, all the while trying to stay “close” and available to their students. That is also a challenge that was likely hard and required a lot of patience from all those involved.
I have been going to town once or twice a week; we are trying to support local businesses by buying dinner or lunch on occasion, and it really saddens me to see most businesses closed: hotels, restaurants, bars, wineries, gift shops, furniture stores, gyms. Every time I see an establishment closed I wonder, how many people worked there? Are the getting paid at least partially? Are they doing OK? Can they still afford food? Healthcare?
It is a consolation that Utilities will not be disconnected due to lack of payment. So everyone will have water, electricity, phones, gas. And that banks are also being forgiving with Credit Card and Mortgage payments. And despite all the controversy about the checks that were mailed out to those who qualified, I am glad that they were. This measure (assistance checks for individuals) will , for sure, cause some damage to our economy in a not so distant future, but for now, they can help people with groceries, toiletry items, baby formula, diapers, many many things we all need every day.
My daughter and I went out a couple of days ago in the evening, and it really felt like a ghost town. To see the mall and the movie theater completely empty was unreal; same for popular places where you normally can’t find a parking spot or a table.
This is a moment in time that we and our children will never forget; it will (hopefully) change our appreciation for life, for health, for our beautiful parks and mountains; for a hug from a friend, for a night out with your loved one or a Girls night out. For your favorite server and your favorite bar or restaurant. And most definitely, for our doctors, dentists, nurses.
A trip to the grocery store will often remind me of shopping with a mask and gloves, of giving 6 feet to the person next to me. Of the clear shield between the cashier and myself. Or of buying the produce that’s available, and not necessarily the items on my list.
Wiping down with disinfectant every single item I bring home, or washing my hands 15 times a day are a few things I will probably not miss. Or wondering when I will find Toilet Paper or flour available for sale next.
I will miss having the kids and my husband at home, an having lunch and dinner together most days. I will miss the spare time to cook, to bake, to write, and to do nothing at all.
I am tremendously grateful for the safety of my home, for my health and my family’s health. For all the food we are able to buy and store. There is so much uncertainty that sometimes I get caught up in the anxiety that it can trigger. What will happen to schools? Will they resume in the Fall? What will be of the stock market? How are hotels, airlines, cruise lines going to slowly rehire and re-train?
But no one has answers for that yet and worrying won’t help anyone. So I try not to watch news, which lately are more like political campaigns. I stay away from panic-triggering headlines, and I absolutely refuse to read all the crap I get on my phone (videos, links, and the “a friend of a friend of a friend’s doctor said that” type of advice). I have never seen so much misinformation and Hoax on the Internet, Whatssapp, Facebook, you name it; we should all be more responsible with the things we send or forward.
A few years ago , kids at middle school were introduced and encouraged to participate in a Social Media campaign called #ICANHELP; it’s goal is to educate and empower students to use social media positively.
Shouldn’t we adults do the same, specially in times like this?
Be safe everyone.