About 6 months ago, I asked the question: “How Bad will it get?” There were no clear answers. At that time there were some predictions that as many as 200,000 people would die of Covid-19 in the United States. That seemed like a large number. For a while, Covid was concentrated in New York and the Northeast. If Covid stopped there, the numbers would not reach 200,000.
However, Covid-19 did not stop there. It has spread to all areas of the country and in both urban and, surprising to me, rural areas. It becomes controlled in one place and pops up in another. The number of deaths is now past 200,000 and marching towards 300,000. My question is now: “When will this end?” We are tired of being worried, tired of the changes in our lives and tired of hearing about Covid all day. My answer to this question, though, is an honest opinion: This will not end soon. We may not be halfway through this chapter in our lives.
Covid-19 for many of us has moved from being something far away to something close to home. For me this has meant that I have had to make a difficult decision together with a patient and his family. This patient, a man in his 80’s, had been hospitalized for close to two months with Covid-19 and had been on a ventilator. The fact that he actually survived and was recovering was a big success. I was providing care for him at a skilled nursing facility although care was very unusual. All my encounters were “virtual”, looking at each other on a screen. I never was able to just touch him and provide physical support. He was thinking ahead and made plans to install a stairlift at home. Then, just like that, he went downhill. One day he suddenly became too weak to use the walker; then soon he wasn’t strong enough to get out of bed. He stopped eating, always a bad sign in an older patient. Yet, he never developed a fever and his laboratories didn’t change much. His oxygen level went down a little but had been low to start with. His Chest x-ray, ever since he had the Covid, was never normal. Over a number of days, I watched him like a hawk and we struggled with what to do. He did not want to go back to the hospital; he remembered what that was like. He really wanted to go home but going home would mean going home very likely to die. We finally decided to send him back to the hospital and that was something the family will remember as well; first transporting towards one hospital and then circling around and ending up in an unfamiliar hospital because of lack of hospital beds.
Another recent story is one that reenforces my belief that we are not halfway through. A young lady from my extended family came down with Covid. She was surprised at the diagnosis since she thought it was her allergies acting up when she had some sniffles. Then she developed a little fever and decided, just to be cautious, to be tested. Her mother, a lady in her 70’s, then developed Covid. After that, her grandmother was tested. And since multiple people had been bringing goodies to the grandmother, all those people were tested. Fortunately, those tests came back negative. The point that stood out in my head was that the young lady was not involved in any high risk behaviors; no parties, bars and she always wore a mask. Her mother very likely caught it when the young lady was asymptomatic. This is the kind of story that will become very common in the months ahead. When Covid first became a concern back in March, the virus was not “everywhere”; now it is very widespread and frequently invisible. We should continue to wash hands, physically distance and wear masks. Nevertheless, the novel Corona virus will not be easy to defeat.
My message today is that we are not running a sprint. We ARE running a marathon. That takes strength and mental preparation. We must all continue to work on our resilience, fortitude, compassion, and connections.
In a future article, I will talk about vaccines.
Warmest Aloha and stay well,
PS. I’m here to support you. Be connected, stay strong.
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