January 26, 2020 will remain in my memory forever. On that day, my wife, my son, and I went for a hike. Our daughter stayed home because she wasn’t feeling well. During the hike, we didn’t have any cell service, so we didn’t get any news updates till after we finished. When cell service returned, we saw the news of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others. Their deaths were devastating enough, but that is not the only reason I’ll never forget that day. I’ll never forget that day because when I returned home I felt like shit, and I progressively felt shittier as the night wore on. The next day, I felt even worse, sleeping most of the day as I ached all over, threw up, and experienced other symptoms that we now know are connected with COVID-19.
I’d been seeing the news out of China, but there was no indication that had reached our region of the United States. That wouldn’t come until the first part of March. However, looking back, I swear we had COVID. My wife caught whatever I had, and she had a persistent cough for about a month after the infection. We didn’t get tested, of course, because testing wasn’t available, so we are unsure if that is what it was. However, the only other time I felt that bad was when I was in the ICU with pneumonia, and that’s saying something.
We got this illness as my daughter and I were rehearsing for the community theater show we both performed in that February. It was a mere weeks, or even days, before opening night. One of the prominent members of the theater, John Preece, who appeared as Teyve in over 3,000 performances of Fiddler on the Roof, was there too, helping with the production. Almost a year after January 26, 2021, he died of complications from COVID-19. He was in the hospital being treated, and they released him to his home. He died in his home, with no one around him.
Every day, I walk my dog around the neighborhood, and on some of those walks I pass by the house where he died. It wasn’t till months after his passing that we looked online to see who owned the home. Initially, we thought it was the university, but when we searched, it turned out it was John Preece. Whenever I walk past his house, I think about the fact that no one was there when he died. I think about the fact that the hospital discharged him. I think about those I know who have been in the hospital for weeks, even months, and have had serious physical complications due to COVID-19.
One friend, an older man that I know, caught COVID-19 last fall. We’re not sure where he caught it, but it knocked him out. He was in the hospital for at least three weeks, if not more. Once released, he went home, and a few days later he was back in the hospital due to complications. Thankfully, that stay did not last long. However, since then, he has had to be on oxygen, carrying a large tank around him at first but now having an oxygen pack attached to his belt. He has lost a lot of vitality but is fighting.
Another person I know went into the hospital as well. He caught it at work, and since his stint with the disease, he has had issues with his eye. His husband also contracted it. He spent at least a month in the hospital, and while there, COVID-19 attacked already weakened parts of his body. He ended up having to have heart surgery. In a way, it was good because doctors were able to catch it while he was hospitalized. His recovery lasted a while, and he is still not back to being 100 percent.
There are numerous other stories, I know, of individuals who have suffered due to this pandemic. I’ve know others who have contracted it, and I’ve seen their stories. If we had COVID-19 in January 2020, we are lucky because it only kept us off our feet for a while, not requiring hospitalization or worse, death. Since then, we haven’t had it. Yet, as I type this, I sit awaiting results of a COVID-19 test I took yesterday to see if I have a breakthrough case. If I do, I ponder where I contracted it.
Was it from my son who started school a couple of weeks ago? They do not have mask mandates. In fact, they did not have them last year either in spite of us contacting the school board and school administrators themselves. He went to school last year because what his principle did worked and we felt confident. Our daughter did virtual because what her principle said did not make us feel confident in their preventative measures. If I got it from him, I worry about others at the school and who they may pass the disease on to in their circles. I worry about him passing it on. If it was from him, though, he has been asymptomatic.
I could have gotten it other places, I am sure. However, I’m racking my brain to figure it out. What scares me, more than anything, though, is what happens if I have it? My symptoms, after two days, seem to be gone. I have a mild cough now. It started with a runny nose, some aches, and a small cough. Now, two days later, just a cough. However, on that first day, I was around that older friend, who is not vaccinated because his doctor is worried about the side effects and his other health issues. I was around two other older friends and well, both vaccinated. I fear for all of them getting it because of my carelessness. I fear for the others I was around that day.
Over the course of this pandemic, things have changed, morphing the ways we think about work, life, and other issues. The pandemic began, in the United States, as a political talking point, dividing individuals as many other topics over the past few years have done. The political vitriol continues with people arguing against basic public health measures such as masking, some even threatening violence against medical professionals at school board meetings. We have governors flaunting their positions against masking. Add to this the continued misinformation about vaccines as the pandemic continues to rage, and I keep wondering when this will end.
All I have to say is this, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” That means, no matter what you think, do what is best for the public good. Do what is best for those around you. That means taking measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and the variants. That means ditching the politics and going with the science and human decency. That means loving one another!