March 2020 will go down as an awful month for many, many people around the world, one filled with fear and uncertainty. Even as the beauty of spring burst forth everywhere, so did COVID-19. It all left me thinking, “What could happen next- it can’t get worse?”- something my mother warned me never to do. Never challenge the universe, as sometimes the universe will be happy to show you what’s next. Sort of like Godzilla walking toward you through the mist.
I woke up early Monday morning wondering where Dan was, thinking he must have had a leg cramp and gone downstairs to walk it out after all of our bike riding the past few days. Instead, I found a miserable and green-at-the-gills husband in his chair. He told me he’d woken up with stomach cramps and nausea, something we blamed on the frozen pot pie he’d eaten for dinner the night before.
I got some ginger ale and crackers for him and tried to get him to sleep as best he could, while I got busy walking Marley and doing house chores. Around 1pm, I was finishing a long business call when I saw Dan quietly settle into his office chair just outside my studio out of the corner of my eye. Uh-oh.
I wrapped up the call and turned to see Dan sitting there with his N-95 mask on. He told me he needed me to take him to the ER, as he was pretty sure he had appendicitis. Not the best time for a trip to the ER when our city is becoming a hot spot for COVID-19, but what option did we have? I donned my mask and we headed down the hill to UAB Highlands.
I dropped Dan off at the entrance to the ER and went to park in the garage across the street. When I walked into the building, I was met by a nurse in a mask sitting at a table. She told me that I couldn’t come in due to the new COVID-19 protocols in place, and that I could wave goodbye to Dan through the glass window.
Thus began a surreal time of sporadic messages from my husband (who had been given morphine to help with the intense pain). I didn’t know what room he was in, who his surgeon would be, when his surgery would be…and his cell phone was dying. We had left the house in a panic, not thinking about important details such as what he would need for a hospital stay. Normally I would be there with him to advocate for him and make sure he got the best care, but not this time.
I am a worry wart on the best of days, and when my husband is having an appendectomy without me there during a global pandemic, on top of trying to do my job online suddenly, having just gotten over a scary flu, and a shoulder procedure before that…well, I am just undone, my nerves frazzled. At least today. I feel like a big wuss- everyone on the planet is dealing with this fear of the unknown, many with situations far worse than anything I could imagine, but right now I feel like everything in my life is spinning out of control, and I very much need calm and a feeling of at least of modicum of control. Dan is my anchor, and not being able to be there for him has been practically unbearable.
Thanks to the advice of a friend who is a nurse, I called the nurses’ station to get information about Dan (I didn’t know what room he was in or how to reach him with his phone dying). As usual, the nurse, Stephanie, saved the day. She gave me information about Dan’s scheduled surgery, found a charger for him to charge his cell, gave me her direct line, and followed up with updates. Nurses are amazing, and I am so grateful that Dan has had such excellent care by all of his nurses. I truly don’t know what I would have done otherwise.
I have spent the day trying my best to burn off my anxiety and worry, walking Marley in between the rain storms, cleaning the house like a madwoman, trying to do schoolwork, pacing, messaging with friends and family, and finally settling in by the fire with the animals, a good book, the fireplace roaring, and a nice cup of green jasmine tea.
There is no playbook for this time in our lives; we’re all having to learn new ways of being, new ways of living. I am feeling something very akin to grief at all of the changes to our world and our lives, craving some sense of normalcy, some real hope that this giant rudderless ship will get back on track. I can’t control any of it; all I can do is to stay at home and do my best to stay positive and take care of who and what I can take care of.
All I know right now is that the man who is my heart is all alone in a hospital room just down the hill from me, this damn virus leaving me unable to do anything to help him until they call me to come collect him tomorrow to bring him home. At least we’ve been able to message some and make each other laugh- and feel loved.
As a huge introvert I crave solitude and peace. However, perhaps this experience with Dan has made me feel the loneliness and fear that COVID-19 is causing for so many. I’m hoping that a new day, another sunrise, another blooming flower, will help to raise my spirits. I know I’ll be grinning ear to ear when I finally get to pick Dan up tomorrow and bring him home to Chez Gainey. In a world spinning madly out of control, his calm and gentle presence helps to ground me in reality- not fear.
That’s all any of us can do; look for anchors in these tumultuous times and try to keep our spirits lifted so that we can help others lift theirs. We’re all in this together.