The One Who You Never Met
Updated: Jan 18
Today, you’re out bouncing, just doing what you do. It’s been a long week. Maybe you’re chilling on a park bench along the river. Maybe you’re on a hike in your local nature preserve. Whatever the case, you’re just out getting some you-time and unwinding before the week starts again. You’re fit. You’re healthy. You’re at your peak. You are the quintessential fit and healthy person. Fast-forward two weeks.
You wake up with a fever, you’re mildly short-of-breath, you have a mild dry cough, and your joints feel like spikes are being driven through them. You check your temperature. Yep, 103. You’ve seen enough on your TV to know to make the call. Your doc has you go to your local hospital. They diagnose you with the Covid-19 infection, send you home with instructions to self-quarantine for the next two weeks, and tell you to come back if symptoms worsen.
For the last two weeks, you were unaware that you had become infected, or that you even came into contact with anybody who was sick. During this time, you’ve been hitting the grocery store where nobody maintains a decent distance, except for checkout because of the tape lines on the floor. During this time, you’ve hit your corner store every day, where everybody knows they are immune to Covid-19. During this time, you’ve visited a few gas stations where everybody knows they’re immune, and where they stack up on each other while waiting in line.
You never entertained the idea of “social distancing” because you’re not a “germaphobe” and because you don’t feel sick. You never entertained the notion of “social distancing” because none of this is real – it never happens to you, but only to others. Now that you’ve contracted Covid-19, you’re forced to stay home for a couple of weeks.
You spend a few days on the couch feeling like crap. Your fever subsides. You’re a little coughy, but nothing you can’t handle. The body aches subside. You’re able to easily stay hydrated, so fatigue and lethargy subsides without much effort. After these few days, you’ve bounced right back because you’re healthy and bulletproof.
You don’t understand what all the Covid-19 hoopla is about because you got through it with relative ease. You spend your last seven days of self-quarantine feeling well, complaining about how you’ve been unfairly held against your will, and complaining about all the fuss and commotion over a simple chest cold that was really no big deal. Your 80-year-old grandfather, who you visited in the two weeks before you were diagnosed, wasn’t so lucky.
Grandpa Winston is oxygen dependent because of lung disease. He also has congestive heart failure. He doesn’t get out much, but he always loved having company, especially family. Shortly before you were diagnosed, you had stopped by to see him. You were carrying the virus, but you didn’t know it. You had helped him change his O2 line as you always do when you stop in. You shook hands and hugged as you were leaving, just as you always do. Then, during your second week of self-quarantine, Grandpa Winston falls very ill.
Grandpa was taken to hospital and diagnosed with Covid-19. Because of his respiratory condition, the virus quickly wreaked havoc. Pneumonia quickly set in. Grandpa lost his Covid-19 fight the day before your self-quarantine ended. Grandpa wasn’t as lucky as you. You don’t understand how this could have happened since you got through it with relative ease. There’s no way Covid-19 caused this and there’s no way you could have given it to him. None of this makes any sense. I mean, you didn’t even visit him when you were sick. The hospital has to have messed up, right?
During your two weeks before being diagnosed, after sneezing like you normally do, you were at your local gas station on a day off. You pumped gas after sneezing and before washing your hands. No biggie. You do this often, like everybody else. This is the norm. Your virus gets unknowingly transferred from your hand to the pump handle. A short time later, somebody else, Sally, on her way home from the pharmacy after picking up her kid’s prescription, uses the pump, and your virus transfers from the pump handle to her hand. Sally rubs her nose during the drive home because she had an itch, before washing her hands, and your virus transfer is now making its way into her lungs.
Like you, Sally doesn’t know she’s had an exposure. When she gets home, she thoroughly washes her hands and does everything right, just in case. She has to. You see, Sally has a 4-year-old who has a condition that causes their muscles to barely be strong enough to breathe under normal conditions. This 4-year-old doesn’t have the strength to fight off any kind of a serious respiratory infection. They already struggle just to maintain normal breathing.
Sally doesn’t know that she’s had an exposure from you. Within a week’s time, she transmits the virus to her compromised 4-year-old, because they live in the same house. Coincidentally, both Sally and her 4-year-old become sick at the same time, and are diagnosed on the same day as you, and at the same place.
Sally’s 4-year-old is admitted to hospital and is quarantined in ICU because of their underlying respiratory impairment. Sally isn’t allowed contact because she, too, has Covid-19 that you unknowingly transmitted to her. Sally’s 4-year-old, on the 3rd day in ICU, develops what’s called, Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, or ARDS, and can no longer breathe on their own. Normally, the hospital would have put a ventilator on Sally’s 4-year-old to combat the ARDS. But, because the hospital is so overwhelmed by the Covid-19 outbreak, they don’t have a ventilator available.
Sally’s 4-year-old died this 3rd day because Covid-19 caused them to stop breathing. They needed a ventilator that the hospital didn’t have. Sally wasn’t there. Sally wasn’t allowed to be there because she, too, had Covid-19. Sally’s 4-year-old died alone. Sally will recover from Covid-19 just as well and as easily as you did because Sally is just as fit and healthy as you. Sally’s 4-year-old, however, wasn’t so lucky, and Sally will never recover from that.
None of the calls for social distancing are about you. None of the calls to stay home are about you. They are about the next person. They are about the person you don’t know. They are about the person you never come into contact with. They are about the person you will never meet. Grandpa Winston would not have died if you would have simply stayed home when you didn’t need to be out. Sally’s 4-year-old would not have died if you would have simply stayed home when you didn’t need to be out.
None of this is about you.