BAYHAM: COVID-19, One Year Later

On this day last year I was hauling a laundry basket to the washing machine.

What was remarkable about this mundane task was that I struggled so much carrying dirty clothes, which felt more like lead.

Not immediately paying much more thought to this surprising act of exertion, I went to my bedroom to field a phone call from a friend in Michigan who was having anxiety about the rapid spread of the coronavirus in her adopted state.

This would be a poignant conversation for not just the topic but how it suddenly concluded.

As I was doing my best to offer her reassurances and encouraging her not to panic, I noticed that I had trouble speaking. Not how one struggles as if he had a stroke but different.

In that moment I started to get chills and it occurred to me what was happening at that very moment: the symptoms of COVID-19 were rapidly manifesting.

I hung up the phone mid-conversation and sat down to wonder what would come next.

Thus would start the most harrowing experience of my life for only an hour later I was not certain I would have much time left as the first act of my personal hell commenced.

And I’m not exaggerating.

The next thing I endured was unprecedented gastrointestinal suffering.

Think Linda Blair levels.

And it did not let up.

At that instant I felt something horrible happening in my lungs, as if something was trying to actively kill me from the inside.

It felt like an invasion of pestilence rampaging through my organs.

My ability to breathe became immediately compromised; I was fighting for air and physically weak to a point I couldn’t stand up.

The gastrointestinal issues continued to flare even though I didn’t think I had anything left within me to involuntarily expel.

After going through such excruciating pain I had to make a decision: crawl out my house on to my front lawn and call 911 at a time where hospitals were handling people with severe COVID-19 by putting them on ventilators or take my chances staying put.

As bad as things were I had heard horror stories about those on vents. And I was worried how my family would react to me being rushed to a COVID ward.

After much thought while in terrible pain and fear, though mercifully not panicking, I made a stubborn decision: I’d take my chances and die in my bed as I continued to fight to breathe.

It was the equivalent of rapidly approaching the end of a road choosing between slamming the brakes or hitting the gas and making the jump.

I was going with the General Lee option but with a weak wheeze and not a Dixie horn.

I truly felt as if the odds were not good either way and I struggled to stay conscious as long as I could as the virus coursed through me. I was amazed that only hours before I felt fine and was carrying on with my day and now was potentially staring at oblivion.

It was a lot to ponder.

As my strength began to wane, I made a point of laying on my side to lessen the chances of asphyxiating on my own vomit or fluid build up (I’m all to familiar with this hazard due to a previous familial tragedy).

I lacked any strength to manage any other arrangements and had the thoughts a person who believes his limited time was soon coming due and tended to my soul.

I said a prayer for myself, humbly seeking forgiveness for transgressions and admittance to the Heavenly Kingdom and remembered the words of a Louisiana politician who had shared what he believed would be his last thoughts as his organs began to shut down.

Place it all in God’s hands, whether bodily survival or spiritual transcendence.

My vision became blurry, my breathing limited, and I faded off truly not knowing if I would open my eyes again.

Till tomorrow or the beyond.

My eyes began to flicker open a few hours later and I could make out a four on my digital alarm clock. My breathing was not normal by any means but had mercifully stabilized at some point while I was out.

I had no strength at all, saliva in my mouth was non-existent and as I went to drink some water out of a bottle by my bed I almost choked and shot the water out my mouth like a cannon and this triggered more vomiting and dry heaving. My body couldn’t take it.

I remembered a similar situation from college when I had mononucleosis and started swigging water to return moisture to it and then spitting the water out into a plastic bag that was within reach of my bed.

I would not be able to even sip even the slightest amount of water for another 36 hours.

Though the drop in breathing capacity plateaued, I could feel the virus in my organs. I wasn’t out the woods yet.

I would not be able to nibble a piece of toast for another 48 hours and would not have an actual meal for 96 hours.

I would be stuck in bed for days, incapable of doing even the most basic things without great exertion.

I was warned by a friend in New Jersey whose father continues to battle COVID about a ten day relapse and like clockwork I did experience a setback but fortunately did not slide too far back.

A cough showed up after the worst of it though I would only end up coughing once per hour, as if on a schedule. The coughing episodes were not overly painful but they were pronounced.

I would also experience confusion and memory difficulties and other new physical ailments that would compound my misery.

Furthermore the virus had retriggered an infection that I had previously knocked out a year before with medicine and would affect me off and on for the rest of the year as insufficient Zoom doctor visits and a trip to a physician assistant who was completely unaware of what I was dealing with didn’t provide relief.

About the only thing I could say about experiencing a severe case of COVID was that it gave me perspective on how the virus could potentially affect someone and friends who later tested positive would call and ask for advice on how to deal with particular symptoms and what to expect.

And with one notable exception, all of my friends and family had less severe bouts than me thanks to medicinal treatments that became maddeningly politicized by a partisan media contaminated by an anti-Trumpian mania.

That a virus outbreak in Communist China could reach so far across the planet and claim the lives of hundreds of thousands of people amazes me, as does the lack of consequences that have been felt by the Beijing regime responsible for mishandling this nascent pandemic and allowing its spread.

I didn’t need to catch the Coronavirus to take it seriously; I wore masks and gloves prior to contracting COVID-19.

And if I had to pinpoint where I likely caught it from, my guess would be a grocery in Texas the previous weekend where I was buying items for shut ins back home.

That basic items such as canned beans, rice, and bread were hard to find in Louisiana due to the supply chain disruption ads another surreal level to this past year.

Inside the grocery, masks were not prevalent and personal space was non-existent.

The east Houston HEB looked more like the floor of the New York Stock Exchange with everyone furiously trying to corner the market on Lysol and toilet paper.

A year later things have improved in some ways: oxygen treatment and pharmaceuticals are the first line of caring for those with COVID and ventilators are a last resort.

More so than the robust economy that existed pre-COVID-19, President Donald Trump’s Operation Warp Speed ought to go down as his legacy through the rapid development and deployment of vaccines with astounding rapidity.

You can pay for stuff with cash and coins now that America has emptied their collective Kentwood jugs of change.

And you don’t need to be the Speaker of the US House of Representatives to get a hair cut.

Charmin is no longer the “white gold” it was twelve months ago and I suspect every house has a year’s supply of toilet paper.

Those who choose to work and not game the system can find employment, though it seems Washington is doing all it can to disincentivize people from rejoining the work force.

The arbitrary and draconian restrictions of last year in most of America are rolling back.

Even New York’s Sandinista mayor is trying to have the curtain raised on Broadway this fall.

However what the state giveth back, they taketh away from somewhere else.

The concept of Vaccination Passports or whatever more benign sounding euphemism that is being used is nothing short of chilling.

A vaccination passport would limit people’s ability to fully access society, creating tiers of people…while both having to wear masks.

Worse, the duplicity of the current national administration essentially allowing illegal aliens with COVID-19 to enter the country while potentially telling a citizen he cannot board an airplane or attend a baseball game without proof of having received one or two vaccination shots is staggering and cannot be allowed to become established as a new normal.

Hopefully the war against the virus itself will be won and the mutations stymied through vaccinations and that long-hoped-for herd immunity.

But the fight against overreach by the state must be fought in the courts, state houses, and town councils.

And those who abused their office, the general welfare of the public, and our liberties during the pandemic must be held accountable regardless of party.

There must also be a reckoning with Red China for their complicity in the spread (if not also creation) of COVID-19, though it’s apparent that won’t be happening any time soon under the present compromised White House.

Individually and as a society we must recognize that COVID-19 is not a hoax and that we should make personal adjustments to prevent both from contracting it and spreading the virus.

That includes wearing masks, minding your personal space and that of others, sanitizing, and being considerate to others, especially the most vulnerable.

The social contract took a real beating in 2020 through the poor conduct of government and individuals and there are many mile markers ahead of us before we truly return to normalcy.

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