May 022020

Week Seven or is it Nine of Quarantine here in beautiful Paradise, Indiana. Who knows what day it is? Those of us privileged to be retired live in a haze of “no time.” But getting a prescription involved contact with the Real World Out There.

I have various problems with my lungs, so I am hunkered down for the duration. My husband is an insulin-dependent diabetic, so he is also careful. We’ve picked up or had groceries delivered. Occasionally we pick up food at a drive-up, donning masks and gloves. We also visit our local CVS for prescriptions, and that’s about it.

I get bronchitis at this time almost every year. My doctor has a protocol for my management which involves nebs 4x daily, diligence on regular inhalers, an antibiotic, and Prednisone. Sometimes I get a shot of both, but not this time as my physician is primarily doing Telemedicine. She told me that her main goal is to keep her patients out of the Emergency Room.

I support her goal, though for me it means taking oral steroids instead of the shot. I’ve been taking Prednisone for the 28 years I’ve had asthma, and in the last year or so, the oral tablets have caused my heart to palpitate so much I feel it is coming out of my chest. The doctor dosed the pills in a different taper to see if that would help. But first I had to get the pills.

Normally I send Herman out to CVS, but my insurance changed April 1st and this would be the first prescription on the new insurance. I called the pharmacy and they were so busy they preferred not to take it on the phone. So off to CVS I went.

The traffic was not different from any other Friday in our little corner of the universe. At CVS’ neighboring Starbucks, at least 20 cars lined up for the drive-up.

My car was about ten back from the window when I arrived at CVS. The parking lot was full. I observed that most people were wearing masks, and some wore vinyl gloves. When I got to the window, the pharm tech was also wearing a mask and gloves. Maybe my anecdote is irrelevant because I visited a pharmacy, but it made me feel like we’re looking out for each other.

My home is in southwestern Indiana, in a primarily rural county of 70,000 people. We’ve had 15 deaths, all of them but two in the same nursing home. We have less than 100 cases.

Indiana, however, currently has a hot spot in Cass County, north central Indiana. About half of my cousin’s on my father’s side and my one remaining aunt live in this county, where nearly a 1,000 people have tested positive for COVID. Many work in a meat-packing plant that employs 2,000 people. In a county of less than 40,000 people, I suspect that many employees drive from adjacent counties.

The hospital in Cass County is small and has only nine ventilators. As a child, I visited my paternal grandmother there in her later years. People with more serious illnesses are generally sent to hospitals in Lafayette (where my nearly 90-year-old father lives a mile from my 60-year-old brother) or the web of tertiary hospitals in the Indianapolis metro area.

I worry about my cousins and their families. Dad is the youngest of his parent’s children and the only one of the siblings left, so many of my first cousins are older than I am. My aunt (who is the widow of my blood uncle) was basically homebound with health problems prior to the COVID outbreak, and her adult daughters and their spouses provide what she needs. Except a hug.

This was written mostly for myself, so that I can remember what things were like on May 1, 2020. My family is nomadic and most of the younger generation are still working from home or going into shuttered offices with few people who can socially distance.

Like many others, our family includes people abroad, including China, Sweden, England, and Turkey.

  • A relative who is an engineer is trailing an epidemiologist through meat-packing plants all over the country and doing statistical analysis for him. They work closely with the CDC.
  • A relative who was getting his master’s degree in Beijing, China, happened to leave China for the Chinese New Year and can’t get back. He is living with his parents in Virginia, working online.
  • A deceased in-law’s brother spent three weeks in a hospital, mostly intubated, and finally rallied after very difficult times. He is now in a rehab hospital. His partner was also hospitalized and is now at home.
  • My nearly 90-year-old father, who has some minor age-related dementia, is struggling with nearly every aspect of his solitary confinement. Yet, his senior center in north central Indiana has reported no cases of COVID among the 300-plus residents and staff. This is a miracle when so many facilities are struggling. Stay in your apartment, Dad. Keep up the good work.
  • Friends from California have lost two very close friends a few days apart from the virus in the Los Angeles area.
  • Another friend’s cousin went to New York to help. She’s a nurse, and among many who have willingly put themselves in danger.
  • My cousin from east London was visiting family in Florida and is “stuck there” away from her family in England.
  • Our nephew is a physician, and his county is adjacent to the Indianapolis area, where there have been numerous outbreaks in nursing home. We pray for him daily.

Everyone could write this column. COVID has affected all of us in various ways. Families struggle to home school their children. I would be a very bad teacher. I once substituted for my son’s confirmation class, and thought it would be cool to have Springsteen’s Post 9/11 CD playing as the students entered. One of them said, “Quit playing that music by that old man.” (This was in 2001.) Not great teaching vibes here.

I worry about the women who are pregnant and will deliver in this madness. While many will choose an at-home birth with a midwife, some women have no choice but to deliver in a hospital. The reasons vary from finances to a planned C-section. Most hospitals have the maternity section in a different area of the hospital. But new moms worry. They worry when pregnant and they worry big time after the baby is born. It’s a natural part of the process, that I, as someone who had severe post-partum depression, can see easily going off the scale in these perilous times.

As I said, I wrote this mostly for myself to remember in a year or five, what this was like. But I also wrote it because friends on Facebook ask in general, “Tell me what your situation is like” and I’ve read a number of those posts.

Here in Paradise (that’s the name that shows up on a Facebook map, the spot about three miles from here) we are hunkered down, well fed, well rested, well read, and clean. Our time together reminds us very much of when we were first married, and mostly we get along well (except when he asked me where something is and it’s been in the same place for the 24 years we’ve lived in this house.)

I wish you all peace and comfort. And if you can’t get out and help, send a note, send an email, call an old friend, and donate to your local food bank.

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