Observations in the Time of Corona

The doctor shook his head after examining my daughter. We were talking about the Covid-19 crisis. This is a real public health failure he said. They were running low on seasonal flu tests, but he said they’d better test her because of the underlying conditions. We were in the middle of a dystopian movie, all of us in masks, him in a face shield and gloves. We’d been waved off from the main clinic entrance by similarly masked security guards and redirected so that we wouldn’t come into contact with any other patients.

Her cough started four days ago, followed by fever, body aches, and a severe headache. Our family had already begun sheltering-in-place before it started. We were the fortunate ones – my husband can work from home, I was already there, and the schools closed. Wcanstockphoto12785195e live in an urban area where, if stretched, we can get some form of grocery delivery. In February, I’d starting building up a small pantry so that we could get by for a month. Except for maybe toilet paper, of course. But they still deliver those anachronistic phone books. We have options.

I suppose if this last year hadn’t traumatized our family with large tumors and major surgeries, we’d be more panicky. We had hand sanitizer, masks, and gloves on hand months before coronavirus began rampaging around the planet. I started laughing a little hysterically talking to my husband and then I was so angry I could feel myself choking on it. Hadn’t we had enough? Hadn’t we spent enough nights on hospital couches and in waiting rooms? Hadn’t our kid been messed with enough?

The doctor called last night. My daughter tested positive for Influenza B. I’ve never been so grateful for a Positive result. A flu can be serious, especially for her, but she’s now on antivirals and resting like a champ. We are, in the scheme of things, extraordinarily lucky.

*****

My husband and I are both pretty shaken up, though. This week was a reminder not to get complacent about either our health or anxiety coping strategies. Being at home gives us a sense of false security, but like many people, our lives have changed drastically just in the course of a couple of weeks. There are a lot of canstockphoto15764544unknowns and scary times to come. People are arming themselves with guns and toilet paper (that seems very American and not in a good way).

We’ve learned to start with the basics: sleep, hydration, good nutrition, exercise. Then we level up with: meditation, yoga, journaling. The masterclass is creativity – solving problems with the resources we have, appreciating art and music and books, finding humor even when things are bleak, finding ways to grow our connections with other people, despite the physical distancing. And if you’re ready to hit the expert level: finding ways to help others, either psychologically or materially.

Having worked at home for many years, I’m on a first name basis with our postal carrier. canstockphoto2586629We yelled a conversation across the lawn yesterday, checking in with each other and asking about our families. I asked if they were taking any special precautions as mail carriers and she said not really. We talked about all the hoarding and she wistfully said I just wish I had some hand sanitizer for my truck. There’s no way to wash my hands on the route.

I told her to wait a minute. We’d had a bottle that we purchased after my daughter’s surgery, but we never used it. We weren’t going anywhere and we had plenty of soap. She was so happy and surprised as I tossed the bottle to her. It was a good reminder that in times of darkness, when we’re so much in our own navels, look for ways to help. Reach out to friends and family, donate to your local food bank, feed the birds, grow a plant. Anything beyond the hamster wheels in our heads that generate anxiety.

*****

Adversity tests our character. We can all be good people when life is relatively comfortable and predictable. But who are we under canstockphoto6297403pressure? Do we buy the last two packages of toilet paper on the shelf, or do we leave one? Do we choose to deny the problem and in doing so, put other people in danger? Do we adopt the language of war and battles and hunker down in our foxholes?

There will be challenges ahead. There will be a lot of choices taken out of our hands. But the choice of what kind of person we are in crisis is powerful.

Who do you want to be?

*****

Lastly, this blog has been oft neglected over the last year and half. If there were any time to connect, to share, to reach out, the time is now. I’ll be here more frequently and am coming up with some ideas to reconnect with blogging friends and showcase new bloggers. I’ve gone back on Twitter and you can find me @TheGreenStudy. Stay well and let’s make blogging cool again!

50 thoughts on “Observations in the Time of Corona

  1. I have never been more terrified reading a post then at the beginning of this one. I am so glad to hear that your daughters is “ok” relatively speaking. My thoughts are with you at this time and I’m truly hoping for easier days in your future.

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      1. Oh I didn’t mean that in a bad way at all. Just trying to express how I feel for your family.

        Currently a school teacher in the states working from home. Not sure if they’ll extend the”break” and just catching up on writing at my own blog. I agree with you about making blogging cool again. And while I completely understand why you’ve taken the break, I look forward to reading your wise and beautiful prose again. My reader had been sad without you!

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        1. Thanks for your generous words.

          I’m pretty sure schools will be closed until the end of the school year here, so we’ll be gearing up for distance learning after spring break. My daughter had her first Skype viola lesson this week and it worked out pretty well. I think some creative times are ahead. It’s not quite lemonade from lemons, but adaptability will be key.

          I wish you the best – stay well and we’ll keep this blogging train moving along!

          Liked by 1 person

    1. I try to be generous in thinking that hoarding is yet another way to deal with anxiety. But as I mentioned above, there is something so palliative about caring and doing for others. I’ve read many accounts of people under duress throughout history and have always wondered if I would do the right thing in similar circumstances. Perhaps strength starts with the little decisions at the beginning. If you don’t do the kind or generous or ethical things early on, it’s pretty unlikely you will do them under greater stress.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. It’s funny that you mention that, because every book club I’ve ever belonged to, people state that they would hide Jews, or fight against tyranny and generally be on the side of right (and I actually said I would do whatever to save my kid) but when push comes to shove, I’m noticing more selfishness than selflessness. Interesting how people really do act when faced with tough choices

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Michelle!
    So nice to read you again!
    Glad your daughter is getting better. Scary scary. And totally surreal, these times now.
    Thank you for the reminder of connection. I will look forward to seeing more of you here, YAAAAY! 😄 Take care of yourselves!!

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    1. We razzed her about the timing of getting a flu. C’mon kid! This is a scary time for everyone and for those like us who might be guarding someone who has immunity issues. We’re all guardians for each other and that’s the message that needs to get through.
      How are you doing? Everybody is quickly getting on board with lauding medical professionals, but before we head to the rah-rah, magnetic-ribbon-for-the-car stage, I want to know if you have the resources and support to get through all this. What can we (any of us) do, besides stay home, that can help you and your peers?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Michelle, you really walk the talk! Thank you so much for this expression of solidarity–you my never know how much it means to all of us. So yes, please stay at home and continue to care for one another at a distance. We know stress and loneliness compound physical illness, and increase our risk for getting sick. So anything we can all do to promote *social closeness* in the midst of *physical distance* is key. Then, if you have any access to personal protective equipment, especially N95 masks and face sheilds, or know anyone who has (people in contruction?), encouraging them to contact their local healthcare facility, especially emergency departments, to donate, that is what we really need right now. Front line healthcare workers, of which I am not one (yet), are the most at risk and the ones I worry the most about. We know of at least one emergency physician who has died in WA, and two more, one in WA and one in NJ, who are critically ill. 😦 In my conversations with colleagues, the most frustrating thing is how so many people outside of medicine really do not fathom the gravity of the situation, how quickly it will likely escalate, and the scope and scale of the risk to us all, *especially* healthcare workers. If we all get sick, there will be nobody left to take care of you. But by far the scariest part for many of us, and for me personally, is that my husband and I are both doctors, at separate hospitals. Our potential exposure circles are large, and we are each bringing them home with us every day, putting our own kids at risk, both of whom have asthma. *sigh* So by far and away the best thing anybody can do right now is to assume you are infected and an active vector, and please please please do your best to NOT spread it to anyone else.
        Thanks again, Michelle.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I have to say, I held my breath until I read that your daughter only has the flu. Only! What a thing to say, but I am sure you know what I mean. Yes, I agree, of ever there was a time to stop thinking only for ourselves, this is it. I wish everyone would catch on. Wouldn’t the world be a different and better place if we had a pandemic of kindness?

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      1. Please Michelle, you have nothing to feel bad about. I am just happy your story had a good ending!! I am doing ok Michelle. I can work at home. The only change for me is that my meetings are now either over the phone or on WebEx. Although I’m in an apartment I do have a balcony so I can easily get a breath of air and I do go for walks. I’ve got tons of books and access to movies on TV and online and I am hunkered down and keeping myself busy. I swear at technology at least once a day, but this is one time I am really grateful for it. Glad to hear you will be blogging more often. I love reading your blog. Maybe at some point I’ll get back to mine too. Stay safe Michelle!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Michelle, I’m so relieved your daughter has the flu and not COVID-19 and that she’s responding to the anti-virals. That’s very good news! 🙂

    I’d disagree with your doctor – this is not a failure of public health. It is a failure of our current government, because of the decimation of public health resources 2 years ago. Despite that, we’re still here – the boots on the ground public health department staff members all over the country, working with the CDC and our community partners in health care and emergency response – and it is standard public health emergency measures, implemented by your neighbors, who are putting their own health at risk everyday trying to help the community stay safe, that will get us through this. 🙂

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    1. The doctor’s comment probably needs more context. I think he was feeling very apologetic that they had no testing for coronavirus. Because of my daughter’s recent history and her symptoms, she really would have been a candidate for it. He was really working hard to nail down what was wrong, so she got a strep test, chest x-ray, and flu test. Fortunately we got a definitive diagnosis.
      Our state has very limited testing supplies at this point. I could absolutely sense the tension at the clinic. They have an idea of what’s coming and know they won’t have the resources. We’re at a tipping point and state Republicans are arguing about gubernatorial overreach. Dumbasses.
      I know that there are many medical and public health professionals at work – quite a few who have been sounding the warnings for a long time. Public health is, as you pointed out, comprised of many different gears and unfortunately one of them is the shortsighted confederacy of dunces in the White House. Anyway, I could do that thing that people always do to me as a veteran (thank you for your service). How about instead, I ask how you are doing? I’m not so sure about my neighbors. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard Fox News blaring from their house. But I get your meaning. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m fine, thanks and no need to thank me. It’s my job, and what I do here (media, mostly) is really the least of it. We’re trained for this and have been quick to mobilize. This is what we do! LOL! I’m lucky to work for a very progressive local HD with a smart Health Officer who is concerned about our health and our families, too, so plenty of emotional and mental support available to us, and what I find is that I feel better knowing there’s something I can do to help. 🙂

        Take care, Michelle. I’m holding a good thought for your daughter’s speedy recovery.

        The test kits are a problem, and your daughter definitely would have been a candidate. I’m so glad she could get a quick diagnosis and begin treatment for the flu.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Just what I needed today! I knew I should come here to read your words after having a really challenging day. I’m happy you’re pulling through and you sound bright and happy. I want to be like that amidst my chaos. =>

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    1. Challenging days have been a little too frequent around here. I will say that a person will often surprise themselves by what they can get through. Sorry to hear you’re having one. I wish I had some useful advice, but I can only tell you what I try to do in the midst of chaos. If only for a few moments, I go to a quiet corner and I focus on breathing, let my mind slow down a bit, give myself a little pep talk, stand up a little taller, and jump back in the arena. Stress makes my whole body become this tight, walking fist, so if I can interrupt that for a bit, it helps.

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  6. It’s always such a pleasure to read your blog, Michelle. So much food for thought. Glad your daughter “only” has the flu. Hope you and your husband can avoid it. As you indicate, how we come out on the other side of this crisis—individually and as a nation—is one of the biggest tests we will face.
    I wanted to share this video of Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth dancing—to an unexpected song—it is one the most joyful things I have ever seen. It has become my daily “devotional.” Be sure to have your sound on. https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=RD8AXkfhqvO44&v=8AXkfhqvO44&feature=emb_rel_end
    Take care.

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    1. Hi Donna. I hope you and yours are doing well. Thus far, my husband and I are doing okay – between his hypochondria and my crazy menopausal symptoms, it would be hard to tell if we were actually sick! Everything makes a person paranoid.

      After weeks of drowning in news, I’ve come up for air. I’m working on the garden and more writing and as you say, looking for that joy. Thanks for the video – it’s weirdly delightful. Stay well!

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  7. Hi Michelle, Thanks for catching us up. On and off I worry for your family and send good wishes. This update warms my heart.
    On another topic, when I delivered my daughter and had an episiotomy to heal, I was instructed to make a home bidet. Warm water in a squeeze bottle, a wash cloth to dry. Living overseas, I found that much of the world does not use TP. Time to save a tree.🙂
    May you all be well.♥️

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    1. Thanks for your kind wishes. If there were an upside to any of this, I think it is the surge of creativity one gets from trying to solve problems with the resources at hand. And we’ve got spray bottles! I try to find a positive spin and now, for me, it’s a return to old skill sets – baking and gardening and home repair and really appreciating what we have. Best of health to you and yours!

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  8. I always appreciate your reflections, and wish your daughter a speedy recovery from the flu. I think the policy response to coronavirus has been extreme, short-sighted and misguided, leaving people without the in-the-flesh emotional, spiritual and mental resources they most need now. We will pay for that down the road — if we are not already — in costs that dwarf direct harm done by the virus itself.

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    1. I can’t speak to the policy response, because I have no expertise in public health or governmental inner workings. I’m in the position where the world can go on doing whatever, we’d still be sheltered-in-place for a couple of reasons – my daughter has some vulnerabilities and my husband is able to work from home (while he has a job). I know for others this is creating or going to create real hardship.
      Since this is where we’re at and I don’t see any reversals happening anytime soon, the best we can do is help each other where we can, appreciate the people who are still out there working to ensure that we are cared for, and try not to burden any of these systems if we don’t have to. I just want to protect my kid without turning into a completely irrational asshole about it! Anyway, Cate, I hope you and yours stay well!

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  9. I can’t believe I’m going to say this but thank goodness your daughter has the flu! My husband is a cancer patient and we too were stocked and I prepared early for this, but still — he has scans tomorrow and it is terrifyingvthinking of him going to the hospital to get them. Lots of yoga for me tomorrow!

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    1. I hope your husband’s scans go well. If our urgent care visit told us anything, it’s that medical entities understand what’s at stake and are doing their best to protect their patients. My daughter’s scans are in a few weeks and I know keeping anxiety at bay will be important. Hang in there!

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        1. Dan is in a clinical trial with a combination of immunotherapy drugs after a metastatic recurrence. We know it’s working from previous scans and because he is symptom free. How long it will work 🤷🏼‍♀️

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        2. So glad he is doing well! It does often seem like a crap shoot. My daughter is on a relatively new drug, never tested on kids, for a tumor type that only 150-200 people get in the US a year. She’s doing pretty well, so we remain optimistic.

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  10. It sounds as if you are coping well! And you have more to cope with than many of us. I hope your daughter is recovering well.
    You’re right – adversity builds character. I think it also brings out the best in people which brings tears every time – police singing and dancing in the streets of Mallorca for the people in their doorways and balconies as they police the neighbourhood, people singing from the balconies in Italy, and so many other incidents. I think this pandemic will change us all.
    Blogging has always been cool!
    Stay well Michelle. I wish you and your family the best through these strange and challenging times.
    Alison

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    1. Thanks, Alison. I hope that you and Don stay well. Despite the anxiety, I am constantly reminding myself of a couple of things: we still have choices about who we are and that we add suffering to our pain if we remain fearful. That’s a tough one to learn.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I’d been staring at a box of alcohol swabs sitting on our bathroom shelf since my surgery more than a year ago. What am I going to do with those? I wondered. Now I know.

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  12. An account we can all relate to at the moment, Michelle, not least because of the customary care you take with its writing. Let’s hope the future is more, well, reflective than the past …

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