Lessons in Humility and Respect
The first illness I remember, Measles, dinner with Raggedy Ann,
Great Neck, 1953 in my parent's bed, a rare treat
In the continuing wake of Covid I feel as though I have been sterilizing my life. After receiving all vaccinations and boosters, finally, I felt safe. My defenses slipped away. After all, wearing a mask is such a hassle in our horrible Florida swamp of heat and humidity. Besides, I reasoned, most people are vaccinated now. I constantly use hand sanitizer. I am safe. Was I ever wrong!
I brought home a gift from somewhere. It unwrapped itself in our lives and penetrated far more than my life. I have never been so ill, in body and soul and in ways I never could have imagined. This had to be the flu. My body ached and I had a fever which I rarely experience. I was vaccinated and boostered against the enemy, Covid, which I had experienced previously. I was familiar with Coronavirus symptoms. This was different. It was the Flu, for which I had not yet been vaccinated, I told myself.
For five days I believed the flu was our unwelcome guest. I could not yet summon the energy to get out of bed. I never have fears of illness. I am invincible, I thought. This time, I worried.
I had no appetite or sense of taste. I had a headache in my skull so severe I used a cold pack and extra-strength Tylenol to ease the pain. I was exhausted. Belatedly I realized the symptoms of Covid had raised it’s ugly head, again. I finally dug through the medicine cabinet and retrieved my Quick Covid Test. I took it, and felt as though I was taking a pregnancy test, waiting for the colors to change. They did. I had Covid.
I am feeling most unwell. Another Vodka, please. (Edvard Munch)
My wonderful primary care physician prescribed a legion of warriors against Flu and Covid: prescriptions, steroids, a new Brio inhaler, Flonase and cough medications Tim provided the tissues. I was now battling towards health in my fort of recovery.
I settled into the couch nest Tim had made for me. He had recovered from the flu. Fortunately, he never developed Covid. Tim loved his flu fevers. They were his nighttime companions.
My view from the couch
One night, deep in sleep, I was awakened by Tim's voice “Such great dreams and hallucinations! I’ve been waiting for this since the 60s!”
"Wow,” I said, my voice dripping with sleep and sarcasm, which Tim didn't catch. "So happy for you." I was thrilled, in a way, that he found joy in his illness. I did not. I rolled over, and tried to go back to sleep.
During the days I sweated on the couch and wondered how much energy it would take to drag myself into the shower. Instead, I would weakly ask Tim for another cup of tea with honey, another blanket.
There is something about being sick that tears at your soul, teaches you how to live and how to be grateful for every second of life. You become fearful, in ways you never imagined. You doubt your existence and your future. You discover humility, astonishment, admiration and respect for those who are really sick. I cuddled into my couch nest with my pillow and blanket. I slept. Constantly.
As I recovered, after almost a month, humility and awe quickly replaced my initial "why me?" self pity. I wondered, how do desperately ill people retain their hopes and dreams? How do these brave souls face every day through their own or their loved one’s serious diseases? I am amazed at friends who face cancer, broken limbs, diabetes, MS, ALS, with courage, bravery and even humor.
Where do they find the strength to joke and tease nurses, surgeons and physicians surrounding their hospital beds? Every one of these individuals have my deepest admiration. While I might complain of a cough they don’t lament their cancer treatment. While I sleep comfortably in my cozy bed in our lovely bedroom these courageous souls lay awake and alone in their hospital bed. Their sleep is constantly interrupted by beeping monitors and creeping nurses checking their vitals. Their meals are provided, or not, based on their illness. I have never heard of anyone loving hospital food I thought, as Tim brought me a delicious steaming bowl of Pasta Fagioli.
To all these brave folks of all ages and walks of life who struggle towards recovery you are amazing. You teach a lesson of hubris and hopefulness to your circle of friends and family, as well as to the world. Thank you for your courage.
In closing, a gentle reminder: Please wear your masks, get vaccinated and boostered to keep yourself and everyone around you safe. Never underestimate the power of a germ, bacteria, a virus, a cell gone haywire, or the strength of those afflicted.
Keep your faith in science. We are fortunate to learn the lessons of those around us, in sickness and in health. Don’t let anyone down, we’re all part of this great experiment in humanity.
We all want to survive. Let’s apply these lessons together. Covid isn't going away. And neither are we.