For the first six years of my first child’s life we lived a rarified sort of life. Frequent isolation and social distancing was a fixture of his survival, and we accepted it as part of keeping him alive in a world full of hostile germs.
Then he stopped having heart surgeries, until he was eleven, and then it was only the one, and we got . . . not sloppy, or careless, but carefree to an extent. He wasn’t on oxygen, he wasn’t between major surgeries or on major blood thinners. We were in a safe place of sorts.
Yes, there was the anit-vaxer whose kid got whooping cough in the same wing of our elementary school, and we were forced to urgently get him his booster two months early. Then there was the influenza that I also had (but didn’t know I had) despite our vaccinations. I was at Target until near closing to get him Tamiflu on a Friday night. I didn’t get any and was sick for a week – he bounced back.
Over the years we had ER visits for chest pain (dehydration), an abscessed baby tooth (antibiotics and then a tooth pull the next morning), and the fall that brought his lower teeth through his lower lip (liquid stitches and another dental visit with xrays), oh and the electrical burn in between clinic appointments because when you have a three hour reprieve from cardiology why not go to the ER? All in all, we’ve been lucky.
He almost died inside my body before they cut him out in five minutes flat. He almost died as three vital organs began to fail until he survived an extraordinary heart surgery at 2 weeks old. He almost died from a triple infection of different strains of staph and strep, but that was then.
Now he’s now playing Pokemon video games. He passed his driver’s test, and we need to go to the DMV, if the DMV will be open. He will be seventeen next month. Life was precarious, then it was almost ordinary until now. Now we are on lock down.
This virus will prove the strength of youth and the fragility of age in most of the population. We are rudely reminded that we are not and have never been most of the population. We lived a rarified sort of life for several years, and now we are back to the beginning. We are not alone.
For all of you whose children have CHD, especially single ventricle hearts or transplants, and all of you whose kids have cystic fibrosis or any other chronic disease, I hear you. I share the silent worry that I could accidentally become the instrument of death to my child because I turned the wrong doorknob, didn’t use enough soap, ran into the wrong person, or picked the wrong produce that someone before me touched and put back. I know. Oh, how I know.
While other people may think, “I don’t interact with the elderly,” or “I’m low risk,” we know that no matter how low our own risk is, we become the risk to a young person we love for whom the stakes are astronomically high.
Maybe you have other children and like me you have to tell them, “Don’t roll your eyes at me about washing your hands after riding the bus because you washed them before you rode it; if your brother catches “it,” he will probably die.” Then you feel like shit for sharing the burden with an innocent child who now has to worry about becoming the second to final link in a chain of fatal contagion. The fear. The guilt. If you feel it, I feel you. I hear you. I see you. I know. God help me, I know.
If you’re lucky enough to isolate, you’re not really alone, that’s where I am too. If you’re unfortunately forced into the world for your survival to work a job where you can’t control who comes into your orbit, then I see you. I send you love, hope, and my most sincere respect. I understand the tight rope you must walk, and I recognize your heavy burden in ways most people cannot understand.
For everyone else, please wash your hands, the germs you encounter may do you no real harm, but they can be deadly to the unseen. To the unseen, I see you, I am you. May be we be blessed. May we be healthy. May we live again, someday, at ease.
P.S. I’m not on Facebook at all anymore, so if you like this you can be my proxy and please share it.
As usual, an article of weight and soul. Our boy Ketch is so afflicted and his mom, Tabitha, has voiced much the same as this proclaims. Amanda, I am his ggramma and I am grateful for you and your book. Blessings.
Thanks, Amanda. As always, this was beautifully written, heartfelt, and spot on. Stay well, stay home, and pray people observe the recommendations to stay home. John and I have been staying home now for almost 2 weeks, except to buy a 2 month supply of dog food and prescriptions for ourselves (trying not to breath deeply or touch anything or anyone!). I’ve tried the senior hours at King Soopers once, and it was so crowded that it was unnerving. We’ve had groceries delivered but then worried whether the young man who picked out our food and delivered had used appropriate safety precautions. We’ve been blessed to be mostly strong and healthy up to now and find it hard to lump ourselves with “the elderly at risk population.” But, that is our new normal. We walk our dogs, wave to neighbors, and hope for healthy, normal times. We listen to our governor and wish he were President. We check out books online, eat as healthy as we can (produce doesn’t keep nearly long enough!), and watch TV. These are strange times indeed.