“It feels like my head is in a vice, someone is slowly turning the screws, and I’m inhaling razor blades.”
Everyone wants to know “how it feels” to have a very bad case of Covid. Bedridden and not wanting to sap my oxygen with phone calls, I tapped out this message to a well-meaning friend who wanted some assurance that their behavioral choices had exempted them from Covid contagion.
It was the halfway point of my 20-day battle with a virus that was unrelenting in attacking my body. For context, I consider myself a battle tested healthcare warrior—and have a large scar in my lower abdomen to prove it. I contended with testicular cancer in my 30’s, underwent surgery, radiation therapy and a lifetime of complications. Point is, I feel like I can take a punch.
After beating back pneumonia in both lungs, loaded up on steroids and doing my best to stay out of the ICU, I’m feeling better and coming up for air now – literally. Some observations now that I’ve joined the 17 million other Americans battling this insidious disease.
You can do everything right and still catch Covid.
My wife Sarah and I created a bubble around our family and life the last nine months in an attempt to avoid contracting Covid at all costs. It worked perfectly. Until it didn’t. And we have no idea how we both caught it. (A recent study shows that widely accepted standard of six feet of social distance may not even be far enough to keep people safe.) Remember, the virus is not some sentient being, a biological vigilante on a seek and destroy mission. It is indiscriminate, invisible and potentially unforgiving.
If there is one legacy from this pandemic, please please make it be that access to great healthcare is a universal right.
It is unbearably sad to consider how many people around the world fought for their survival in the pandemic without insurance or access to doctors. How many people suffered needlessly? Healthcare is not something to be rationed according to means or power. If every single person bonded by Covid joins forces to fight for universal health care, that is an army 70 million strong with the power to change the world.
Government at every level has abdicated to the virus.
The December surge was completely predictable and modeled out with near statistical perfection. Yet we failed to use the summer lull in cases to implement a nationwide system of rapid testing, isolation and contact tracing. We did not skate to where the puck was going. Our public health policy devolved into over reliance on simplistic admonitions and recriminations to wear a mask, social distance, wash hands. Pull up ads from the 1918 pandemic and the messaging is oddly similar. One hundred years later and no new tools in our pandemic arsenal? Public health in the last century has taken a backseat to military might, and we paid the price. We must figure out why this crisis brought us to our knees and rearm ourselves for the next one.
The isolation of Covid is enough to break anyone’s spirit.
Don’t underestimate the power of human contact to sustain hope, and ultimately life. Be there for anyone who suffers alone, not just in the time of Covid, but for all the dark times going forward. Think about anyone who spends their days shut off from society – and break through those walls to extend some compassion.
And on a hopeful note, December 2020 proves once again that it is always darkest before the dawn. A vaccine development that could have and should have taken years, instead took months – 9 months to be exact. At a time when we turned our back on science, it is science that saved us.
Sarah and I have recovered from Covid, feeling grateful to be back on our feet, out of isolation and amongst family, and thinking about something Albert Einstein once said: “The more I study science, the more I believe in God.”