In this age of the coronavirus pandemic, every moment of life takes on new meaning and importance. Decisions must be made based upon facts known, not assumed. Everything requires careful thought and planning, like a trip to the pharmacy for refills of prescriptions or a trip to the local grocery store to pick up needed food supplies. Even a trip to the local park for much-needed exercise requires thought of how many people I might expect to encounter and, of those people, how many might be carriers of COVID-19.
During this perilous and troubling time, the coronavirus seems to be flourishing and gaining momentum all around our country instead of retreating. Unlike the warm summer months when much of my time was spent outdoors tending my flower and vegetable beds or just admiring Mother Nature in all her glory(a needed distraction), I am now facing the colder, dreary months of winter; that means spending much more time inside and because of this I must become more aware of the encounters that place inside my home. I fear I won’t be able to have the traditional Thanksgiving Day family dinner for part of my family who resides outside of my home. Since I am a member of the category who is more susceptible to contracting the virus, my plans for this year must change. It breaks my heart, but hopefully, all will understand. I look forward to next year’s celebrations when all of this turmoil will be behind us, and we can be together. At least, that is my hope.
I will be honest; during most of my waking hours, the thought of contracting the virus is never far away. To a certain extent, maybe that is beneficial because it forces me to be acutely aware of what I should be doing to protect my family and myself. Spring and summer have seemed to have evaporated into thin air. All the usual activities associated with fair weather days were taken away by guidelines put into place to protect the health of all of us. In my mind, I understand that, but my heart is saddened. My temper is short, and the days are long. I can’t help but look at strangers with an air of distrust instead of with a welcoming smile. Will this feeling ever depart? Stress and concern are like weights dragging behind me, muting the joys of life.
Recently, I had a check-up appointment at my doctor’s office: yes, in-person, not virtual. It was like no other encounter. I was met at the entrance with masked health care workers who asked health history questions(did I suspect I was ever infected with COVID) before I was allowed admission into the building. All staff was wearing masks, and there was minimal in-person contact with the patient. Instead of seeing the usual smiles, all that was visible were the eyes of those who were attempting to give care. My physician was clothed in protective gear as if I was someone who was to be feared and rightly so. Our frontline staff puts their lives on the line every day so that they must take all necessary precautions to safeguard their health and the health of patients. It was an eerie feeling, something like a scene from a sci-fi movie. But it is now a reality, and the times are a-changing. For how long will all of this continue, no one knows, and that is the disheartening part for me. Hope seems, at times, so elusive.
Spending time outdoors this autumn brings me some semblance of joy in these disconcerting times. I look upward to a crystal blue sky on a Sunday afternoon, and I know I am being watched over, and there is a plan for what is happening, and this keeps me going. I look at the awe-inspiring colors of the maples and aspens, and my heart skips a beat. The crispness in the air keeps me moving forward, one foot in front of the other.
To all those in health care: The doctors, nurses, and support staff and to all those essential workers who supply us with all of life’s necessities, I give you my sincerest thanks. Stay strong, be patient, and above all, stay safe. These times will pass.
Michele Luckenbaugh is a patient.
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