Caregiver Log: COVID-19

My friend’s mother died on Monday, April 20, 2020, from COVID-19.

It is the first death from this disease in my social circle. But it will not be the last.

I spend my mornings helping my mother who is in late stage acute leukemia. Three days a week, she has blood tests to check if she requires a transfusion and two days a week she does. I am not allowed to accompany her into the cancer clinic or the infusion center because of the risk of transferring COVID-19.

As I wait in the car, I see people in various stages of cancer treatment come and go. Even the ones in wheelchairs are dropped in the roundabout and carted into the facility by masked and gloved staff. They range in age from their 40’s to 80’s. Some have hair, others don’t. Some can walk without help, others like my mom need a cane. Leukemia is the most common form of cancer in children 0-14 years of age, but they are at the children’s hospital.

These are the people considered to be on “their last legs anyway”.

And yes, people like my mom in late stage AML are going to die anyway. But others who are in their middle age- mother’s with breast cancer, wives with ovarian cancer- they have a chance to recover. But they are all immunosuppressed and COVID-19 could kill them.

I have watched over the dying four times now, with only one beating the odds and surviving. My mom is the fifth and she has also beaten her own survival odds in terms of length of life after diagnosis. I have been in residence in Peoria for a month and she keeps going, if ever slower.

At least three people in my family of origin are at risk of dying from COVID-19 (even more in my extended family). One has to work to eat and risks doing so. One has personal care assistants that come in and could be asymptomatic. One must venture out to medical clinics to survive.

But to some they are only data points, not people.

The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates 106 million Americans (32% of the population) are at heightened risk from the virus, 25% under age 60 due to underlying medical conditions. But that’s OK. They are disposable because they are on “their last legs anyway”, right? They are going to die anyway, right? They don’t bring enough to the financial markets to count, right?

It is true that the highest risk of death is for people over age 65. But 40% of COVID-19 cases in need of hospitalization are among people age 20 to 54. Younger people are less likely to die but if you allow it to surge through the population unchecked, they will overwhelm the healthcare system and doctors will be forced to choose who lives and who dies.

As Dr. Anthony Fauci said, “You don’t make the timeline, the virus makes the timeline.” I personally reject justifications I’ve been offered for impatience with COVID-19. I am sorry that your ego is so tied up in your lawn that restrictions on access to grass seed is considered tyranny. Maybe you could travel abroad to see what tyranny really looks like when this crisis is over.

I see the sacrifices families must make in the midst of this pandemic. I have my own family, half of whom lost their jobs. The USA as of today has 800,000+ confirmed cases and who knows how many unconfirmed. Look to historical average death rates and compare them to current death rates to get the whole story. When, not if, we reach into the millions of cases and the death rate is about 1%, that’s a lot of people… some of them will be people you know and love.

My friend was not able to see her mother before she died. She’s a naturalized citizen and her mother was in the hospital in England. The difficulty of international travel combined with the ban on hospital visitors made it impossible for her to say goodbye.

It will be the same for me if my mom goes into the hospital. We will not be allowed to see her.

Pardon me if I don’t give a fuck that you are bored and embarrassed that your grey hair is showing.

 

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, April 2020


Reference materials for this blog post:

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/03/24/it-isnt-only-elderly-who-are-risk-coronavirus/

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