I was finally scheduled to have carpel tunnel release surgery on March 19th, having endured literally years of numbness and pain. On March 15th, Governor Inslee shut the state down to try to slow the spread of COVID-19. CTR is considered elective surgery and all elective procedures were now on hold. Into lockdown we all went, limiting contact with the world outside our homes, watching Netflix and snacking to pass the time. We watched with increasing horror the carnage in New York City and a few weeks and my town was a quiet place, surreal with the lack of traffic or construction noise.
Fast forward to June 27th. My surgery is scheduled for the 30th and in compliance with my doctors instructions, I drive in ordinary traffic to a drive through testing site for a mandatory COVID test. The freeway was bustling, and people are on the streets. The third car in line, I note that the gal in scrubs is chatting – maskless – with the occupants of the car in front of me. She waves me forward, asks if I have an appointment and then hands me a ziplock bag. This is my test.
The second tent takes things a bit more seriously, in full PPE. Standing at a distance I’m instructed to check the labeling (yes, it’s mine) then remove the swab from both the bag and it’s paper wrapping. Insert in nostril until you feel resistance, make four circles around in there, insert in other nostril, four circles. Put the swab tip first into the labeled tube of liquid, break off the handle, close the lid, put everything back in the ziplock bag. Perfectly contactless.
My stomach is in my throat. Suddenly the word ‘pandemic’ is scary and real and I feel very, very mortal. Even though I’ve watched the news, even though I personally know at least 3 people who have died of COVID and maybe a 4th, even though I believe in science and am fascinated by all things viral in all their adaptive, simple glory it didn’t get real until today.
Here’s the thing. I’m not afraid to die. I choose to work with people who are dying because I have looked with steely eyes at my own mortality and made peace with the inevitability of it all. But I am afraid of pain. Like most of us, I am afraid of a painful, drawn out and protracted death. I am afraid of dying alone. And COVID-19 guarantees all of that. This virus isn’t just deadly, it is a horrible death personified. No advanced directive in the world can protect you from the death COVID serves up and our health care system is not prepared to even try. So today I feel fear. But believe me, day after that little elective surgery, I’m about to get pissed.
#COVID-19 #endoflife #gooddeath #zerotohero