An invisible assassin hammered its way around the world. Its arsenal caused angst and madness. People began to assemble by the herd at grocery stores stockpiling items, like a nuclear war approaching. Whilst the chaos arose, I was blissfully ignorant to the world.
Before the infiltration hit the states and before my initial hospital stay, I remember catching the news a couple days prior about the virus hitting China which piloted them to act as fast as they could, according to the news. I was nonsensical to think this was self-contained. To me, it was a tragic news story that needed resolution.
It wasn’t until after my first surgery that I caught the news overhearing that the virus was beginning to spread around the world and encroach toward the United States. I sat in disbelief that this assassin did not know boundaries. My fear factor did not kick in because I was in my own survival mode. When the nurses would walk in and catch glimpses of the news, they never showed fear. The virus was about to embroil our healthcare system and they were on the front line. Nevertheless, the conversation turned toward the weather chatting about the ice and snow approaching. I asked how they made it work when the weather was bad. Some said they would sleep in an empty room and others said they lived close by. A minor distraction at best.
As the day’s past in the ICU, I didn’t watch anymore television except for the Super Bowl. I was absent from world news and for good reason- I needed peace to heal. I spent my time joking with the nurses that the first thing I did when I got out was to visit to my beloved Target or any store for that matter. I needed visual therapy, and clothing was just that. The nurses told me in no time I will be out skipping to my favorite stores.
When I was discharged on February 16th, I was in pure bliss, still unaware of the world. Once I settled at home, I turned on the TV and it felt like an avalanche of information pouring in from all news outlets. I was in such disbelief that the world was afflicted. To set the picture, it reminded me of the scene from Austin Powers where he watches a montage of history that he bypassed after being frozen for decades. As the days went on, recommendations were in order that people stay home more than ever. If there was a silver lining with my stroke, it happened at the right time because I was homebound until April 22nd. Still, the fear of someone close to me encountering it and passing it to me weighed heavy on my mind.
My first recheck with my neurosurgeon was nothing out of the ordinary. Everyone was piled in the waiting room waiting to be seen. As soon as I sat down, my name was immediately called back. The nurse told me that they don’t want patients fresh out of the hospital exposed. My neurosurgeon came in to do a check and asked me if I had any questions. I told her that I was aware of the potential the virus was going to get out of hand, but could I still go to Target. She quickly said no and told me that I can’t have any exposure for various reason, namely one, my immune system is still down. I cried fake tears in front of her, although I wanted them to be real. This was my new reality; I can’t leave the confines of my home. My poor husband would have to be my resource to grocery shop and Amazon became my friend again so I could order toiletries and things to occupy my mind.
The pinnacle of the virus did not hit until I was in the ER from my neurosurgeon’s orders for a CT scan to conclude that I had hydrocephalus now. The waiting room looked like a scene from a plague. People were draped across the chairs with masks on their face and their hands over their foreheads. Moaning and crying echoed the room. For the first time, I was in fear that I was in a room full of people that could have COVID19. Later that night I returned with the same scene played out but worse. My husband looked at me like we need to get out of here. The following day was my surgery for my VP shunt, and I needed to be monitored in the hospital. Given that on two occasions it was hard to be in the ER, we went home, and I stayed up all night to ensure I was safe. The horror of that waiting room was only the beginning. I can’t even fathom what they look like now. The following day we were able to dodge the ER and quickly get in for my second surgery.
After I was released from my VP shunt operation, my mom came over in the afternoons to watch me while Brandon worked. The breaking news was unbearable to watch. It felt like the whole world was collapsing. I had to think of something different because I couldn’t risk my blood pressure going up. However, day after day, we watched the breaking news conferences.
I checked my support group forums, and everybody asked the same question- are we high risk? Now this is a tricky one to answer, but to me it made sense. If you are fresh from surgery, then you are high risk. If you have comorbidities, then yes you are at risk. I fell under high risk at this point, but a healthy SAH from 10 years ago has the same chances as anyone else. The tension of not knowing from the groups was palpable.
On my next check to get my staples removed, Saint Luke’s sent a reminder to arrive early because they only had one entrance open for patients to enter. We would all be spaced out and once we reached the doors a series of questions would be asked followed by a temperature check. Once you pass you are free to move along to your doctor. Once I opened the door, I noticed it was completely empty. The waiting room is notoriously overfilled. The front office staff told me that everyone cancelled because they are scared. I could understand that since most of the patients are elderly. I went back quick and my appointment was longer than usual because she had more time.
Aside from the medical visits, COVID19 has impaired me from doing things that I need to do to recover. I needed physical therapy to assist me walking again- that was no longer an option. I had to walk around my apartment, and eventually when a rare warm day appeared, my husband and I would go for walks. I purchased bands that PT would use, that way I could strength train on my own. The other thing taken away is the ability to go to the store and feel like an able body person. I depend on my husband and parents to bring me items that I need and the heroic Amazon delivery men and women.
While many are upset being quarantined now for two weeks or maybe more (I do sympathize with you), I have been quarantined for 75 days so far. So, this assassin with its vengeance needs a mercenary. Too many deaths, weaken healthcare due to the influx, fear- it must be over at some point. Everyone has a story of how this has impacted them but let me speak out for myself and other stroke victims. In a moment time can change. We know the warning signs, but we are afraid that we won’t get the care because the hospitals are at their peak. I empathize with others who have their own conditions they are worried about.
I end this by saying a special thanks to our front line that put themselves at risk to save our lives. Their dedication is what soldiers are made of; therefore you are a hero.