Category Archives: COVID

LAUGH SO YOU DON’T CRY

There is an adage that when things get really bad, and you feel despair, look for the lighter side. Find the humor. Laugh so you don’t cry.

Humor is an age-old way to deal with things that scare us. That make us uncomfortable. For this week, I wish to bring some levity and a respite to the fear we are all fighting, if we are in the fight at all. And I am not alone, by a long shot. People are flooding the internet with home-made song remakes (Mama, I just killed a man – My my my my Corona – Amazing Space, six feet you are). They are creating poetry, art, music, altering famous paintings, sharing their trials and tribulations in humorous ways, and much more.

To what purpose? To keep our spirits up. And to show that we still have fight in us. That we are resilient.

Staying at home:

Having trouble making yourself stay at home? Shave your eyebrows off.

Weekly horoscopes: Aries: Avoid imminent danger by staying at home. Taurus: Avoid imminent danger by staying at home. Gemini: Avoid imminent danger by staying at home….etc…

Let’s have a moment of silence for those who agreed to live with crappy roommates because “when would be ever be at home at the same time for more than a minute?”

A lot of parents schooling at home are about to find out that it actually wasn’t the teacher’s fault.

Stuck at home listening to her owner drone on for hours every day, it dawns on Ginger that she wasn’t cut out to be a support dog after all.

Socially avoidant, pacing restlessly inside your home, obsessively self-cleaning, and somewhat moody? Congratulations, you are now a cat!

Charts:

How to distinguish Corona virus from the cold or flu:

  • Regular cold and flu: I really feel terrible. I think I’ll stay home!
  • Corona: I feel really terrible. I think I’ll fly to Colorado and go white-river rafting with a group, attend a large music festival in a major city, or head to Waikiki and play volleyball on a crowded beach.

Sanitation:

My body has absorbed so much soap and disinfectant lately that when I pee, it actually cleans the toilet.

After years of being too busy at work to thoroughly clean and clear out my house, I have just discovered that wasn’t the reason I didn’t do it.

Coffee filters will work as toilet paper, but it does change the taste of the coffee.

The neighbor kids we had hired to pick up the poop in our backyard just quit. They finally figured out that we don’t have a dog.

The notice said gloves and a mask were enough to go to the grocery store during quarantine. They were so wrong – everybody else had clothes on.

Politics:

News Flash: Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the US National Institutes of Health Infectious Disease Institute unveils a simple yet effective mask that can potentially save millions of lives. (Photo of a press conference he held with Trump, with duct tape over Trump’s mouth).

Isn’t it strange that those of us who live from paycheck to paycheck are supposed to have months worth of savings to get ourselves through this crisis, while billion-dollar corporations have planned so poorly that they need immediate government bailouts or they will go belly up?

Top world leaders and global activists are gathering for a hush-hush summit on a small island to try and solve the COVID crisis. US President Trump, German Angela Merkel, Brit Boris Gordon, and Swede Greta Thunberg end up alone on the last flight, when the pilot announces that the place is going down, and they will have to grab one of the three parachutes for passengers. Just like with COVID, not enough protective gear to go around. A quick decision must be made, and Trump jumps up. He snatches the gear off of Greta’s lap before she can even unbuckle, and announces, “As the leader of the greatest country ever, and the smartest man living, I am the most important person on this flight!” and he jumps out. Gordon quickly grabs a parachute and jumps out after him, no apology. Merkel jumps up and tells Greta, “grab the last parachute, honey. You are so young with your whole life ahead of you. We are all in this together. Go and live!” Greta smiles and quickly hands each of them a parachute out of the bin. Merkel asks wonderingly as they gear up, “How can we have two left?!?” “Easy,” Greta answers. “The smartest man in the world just stole my backpack.”

Social distancing:

This quarantine has me finally realizing why my dog gets so excited about something moving outside the window. I think I just barked at a squirrel.

Today, the devil came up to me and whispered in my ear, “You are not strong enough to withstand this storm.” And I whispered back, “Get six feet back, you (insert expletive here).”

Corona pickup lines:

Is that hand sanitizer in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me from six feet away?

Dang, they keep saying they gotta flatten the curves but luckily it’s not working on you!

Look, I know this is sudden, but if COVID doesn’t take you out, could I?

More jokes will come, no matter how bad things get, because we won’t be able to process all this without humor. We will continue to make art about it. Continue to talk about it. Continue to laugh in the midst of our fear and sorrow. Remembering our resiliency, reaching out to each other, from at least six feet away, and laughing through our tears.

PLENTY

As a very young lass, I had the opportunity to live in a less industrialized country with a fledgling government in power, promising a new era of equity and social justice that had been a distant dream during years of puppet governments and foreign interference. It was all very exciting, from my point of view. Revolution! Yet there were mass shortages of basic goods and even electricity, and the water supply was turned on for two-hour increments daily. People started hoarding basic food and supplies, and profiteering occurred. The government responded with very strict rationing and other measures, but the shortages went on. There were trade embargoes in place and even things like glass soda bottles became precious. I had come from the land of plenty, where empty shelves were unheard of. I asked a respected local elder what she thought about the shortages. Her response surprised me.

“I think it’s great! Now people are more grateful for what we have. We don’t waste as much. We are more protective of our resources, like running water and electricity, because there has to be enough for all of us to share. ‘We are only as rich as the poorest person among us.’ That is our motto! So I do agree with the strict rationing of basic food items. When everything is run on money, the rich can pay starvation wages and hoard the wealth. Before, poor people could not get what they needed, because it was put out of their price range by profiteers. Now, everyone in the country has the right to the basics, like food, housing, even healthcare and schooling. Share and share alike. Then work hard for your luxuries, if you want them, but nobody should have to starve or steal to feed their children or take care of their sick and elderly.”

I don’t claim that I will revel in it if we get to a point of scarcity where we have to turn off our water for part of the day, or have regular electrical shutoffs, or food rationing. And of course it will be terrifying if people where I live get to the point of civil unrest and even starvation – and let’s pause and acknowledge that this is the reality today in many parts of the world, through no fault of their average citizens. But I do think that this slowdown and even partial shutdown that we are experiencing in an attempt to mitigate the current virus can be an opportunity both individually and collectively to take stock of how we want to live and what matters most to us. What are we working for? Where are we rushing to?

For those few who thrive best in the rat race, there seems to be an anxious urgency to get back to work, not just for food and shelter, but as their recipe for personal success and self-worth. I had a chat across the lawn recently with our new megacorporate neighbors who are both able to work remotely on full salary. But they are “going crazy” as they told me, with their own two toddlers underfoot while the daycare is closed. The little buggers need so much time and attention during Mommy and Daddy’s workday! “Expect to see arts and crafts displayed in the windows soon because we’ll have to find SOMETHING to keep them busy so we can get our work done! We might even have to take some vacation time, because it’s so hard to stay productive!” The gym is closed as well, so they just set up a treadmill in their driveway, and they take turns running in place.

And what about the rest of us, the many of us who don’t measure our success by money, and yet need money to survive and keep paying our bills? Natural to panic and wonder if we will go under before things improve. But I do believe that much of our money problems will resolve themselves. Money, after all, is simply a socially agreed way of owning property and exchanging goods and services, and as policies change, so will our money woes. Remember, the only thing that cannot be forgiven in our society is individual failure: “Don’t go under – or go live in a tent. Your fault if you didn’t pull yourself up by the bootstraps!” But if we all sink or rise together in a shared economy, then large-scale adjustments will have to be made to accommodate the changing circumstances. Dominoes will fall in all directions, and those living hand to mouth will fall first. But collective collapse means a collective solution, and that means our government will have to take action and readjust some basics. Lots to think about. Lots to process. And we have a wide variety of examples from around the globe of how different nations are meeting this challenge. Lots to learn.

In addition to the money woes that all contractors face, in common with the many employees without secure jobs or benefits, and our fellow freelancers and small businesses, those of us who are healthcare workers face a much increased risk during a pandemic that sends contagious patients to our hospitals. While others are ordered to stay home, we are ordered to go to work and care for the sick and dying. Fortunately, many of us have come to peace with death through our years of work. I have accompanied many people on their final journey, and I had the honor to be holding my own dear mother’s hand as she passed away. I can now see death for what it is: the natural and inevitable end to each human existence. And I can see grief for what it is: love that has nowhere to go.

Interacting with other cultures around death and dying has been illuminating, because in our dominant culture, people seem shocked and dismayed by anyone of any age in any condition passing away, as if we just never expected it – as if we didn’t know we are mortal. It is a shame that every death must be a shock and a tragedy in our eyes, rather than the natural next step, and one we can accept. It is enough to lose a loved one and grieve without being in denial and shocked at our mortality as well.

More relevant to me than the specter of death is that I still find great satisfaction in living. I truly treasure the opportunities I have been given to interact with and serve others. I value my health and strength. I am grateful for my home, and my several jobs – including the ones that are not paying me right now (I am a contractor for the bulk of my income). I appreciate the ocean, mountains and forests of my home. I am happy for art and music and learning. Grateful for my readers, of course. And I am most especially happy for the strong connections I have, for my social network, for the people who love me, and allow me to love them. Happy for the outpouring of love and offers of help during my illness. So many people encouraging me as well as offering direct, practical help. Even my childhood sweetheart got in touch, to my exquisite and unmitigated delight.

In all this abundance, all this safety, even in illness, my heart goes out to those who for whatever reason, do not have a soft place to land. Who truly feel that their missing paychecks will lead to economic disaster in a matter of weeks or months. Who are facing health challenges that mean exposure to the virus could put them on a ventilator. Who are isolated and alone in their lives, whether due to relocation, poverty, or family separation, to such a degree that they simply don’t have the comfort of close friends and family nearby who can and will check on them, help them, relieve them. Who don’t have enough people in their circle – even during illness or a crisis – to ease their weary hearts, and provide them with practical help.

Not long ago, someone in my family was asking me how we can best support another family member, a common question for us. What if this happens? What if that happens? How can we help then? I answered, we do what we always do. We run around like a bunch of firefighters with a safety net and we just keep moving it underneath them so they always have a safe place to land. That’s our job. On a small scale, and on a large scale.

As to looming death, speaking philosophically, I can truly die happy, if such is my fate, with renewed appreciation for all that is precious in my life. Hopefully much later, because I am not yet tired of this fragile, scary, beautiful world upon which I am destined to live out my life in this even more fragile, ephemeral and yet resilient snippet of human flesh. Wishing all my readers good health, long life, and lots of love.

CORONA EXPOSURE

The corona virus is not just exposing us to contagion and illness. It is also exposing the cracks in our healthcare system, among other things. Take my experience. I am a healthcare worker. I have excellent private insurance through my employer. I am running a low-grade fever, and have fatigue, but then who doesn’t right about now? I wouldn’t think much of it except I just got a call from my boss that my work wife ( a dear colleague who works right next to me) had been exposed to the virus and is very ill. She was not told about her exposure until after she had been back at work with the rest of us for several days. In fact, as an interpreter, she found out randomly because the clinic “didn’t think to call” interpreter services about the exposure. Yet we are staff hospital employees. Imagine how the contracted agency interpreters will be treated. How likely is it they will be informed of specific exposures and testing needs, and who will test them? And what about all the rest of the self-employed, and others in our communities?

I sought testing, as our hospital website directed, by first contacting my own doctor’s office, and here is how it went for me, an educated, competent healthcare worker, very used to negotiating the healthcare system. When I get through the phone tree, they tell me I cannot talk to a nurse as I usually can, because they are overwhelmed. There is no way they could squeeze me in today for an appointment either (which is their usual policy for urgent needs and why I chose them as my provider). I will have to leave a message and then wait for a call, but no one can say when because they are overwhelmed. I argue to the point of rudeness about getting in, tell the person on the phone that my boss just called to say I have been exposed, and I have a low-grade fever. I need to get tested! Not just for myself, but for others, because I am a healthcare worker. Sorry, she repeats, but we are just slammed. You’ll have to wait.

So what, I posit, would happen if I just show up at your emergency room? Well, she says, they would treat you accordingly. Huh? What are you saying? What is your policy? I don’t understand you. What do you mean by treated accordingly? Will they charge me the thousand dollars plus for any emergency room visit? And if I go there, will they test me on the spot? Do they even have test kits? Well, she confesses, I really didn’t know how to answer that, so that’s why I just said they would treat you accordingly. But if we cannot help you fast enough and you want to try elsewhere, I can give you two hotlines to call. One for the County Public Health, one for the State Public Health. Wow. So my excellent, top of the line (“this is why we need the freedom of private insurance so we can choose to pay for the care we deserve”) insurance is giving me an 800 number for the historically underfunded, battered and beaten public health department.

I ask my doctor’s staff whether these numbers are actually offering testing to the general public, or whether they just have recordings of the general rules and guidelines, like wash your hands and stay home with a fever, and she guesses “a little of both” at which I wonder aloud why I would need to call Public Health and listen to a recording when I have excellent private insurance, and have gone to the same doctor’s office for over 20 years. She just offers me the numbers again and tells me I have to wait for a call from the nurse who “has piles of people to call.” Be patient and stand by.

The nurse calls me back late Friday afternoon at closing time and says I cannot come in today. It will have to be next week. I remind her that they have a Saturday clinic (another reason I chose them) but she tells me there is just one doctor for that clinic so they will not allow anyone to come in for testing on Saturday. They already decided. No exceptions! Sorry! But she can give me an appointment for Monday. That is “just as good” she informs me, because they would simply tell me to rest, drink fluids and isolate myself whether I tested today or Monday. So it should be just fine to wait three more days. Just stay home from work from now on, while we wait for the results that can take 3-4 days to come back.

There are many people in situations like mine, and worse, of course. I specifically took a half-time job at the hospital so I could get health insurance, because health insurance options for the self-employed can cost over a thousand dollars a month even with huge deductibles. So I have health insurance and even sick leave for my hospital hours. I will lose all my court pay for any missed shifts, but at least I have a halftime job with employee benefits for some kind of a safety net. For my many colleagues who exclusively contract, of course, they will get no sick leave, zero pay, and there is no system in place to cover their lost income. Contract medical interpreters are not alone in losing income, of course, but it is worth pointing out that they are exposed at work and still not allowed any recompense or even testing. It is cold consolation to my fellow health workers that eventually we will all be exposed, because people are not able to get tested, self-quarantine, and inform others of the exposure, in a timely and effective manner.

Back to my private doctor’s office and his nurse. We talk on for a few minutes regarding my exposure, risk and symptoms. I thank her for the appointment as if she were doing me a personal favor. I really am grateful, though! So glad I have this wonderful private insurance! As we are about to hang up, she adds, oh! What was your temperature? I carefully explain to her that my normal temperature is 96.7F which is 36C, not 37C which is more typical, so when I get a fever, it runs low, but it is a fever for me. My blood pressure is also 85/55 so I just run lower than the general population overall. I invite her to confirm in my chart (not that she has time) that even when I had pneumonia, my temperature never rose above 101F. Oh, dear, she exclaims! That is a problem.

She is so very sorry, but she has to cancel my Monday appointment after all! She understands that I want to be tested, am symptomatic, and that my boss called to say I was exposed, but I do not qualify to get tested under the government guidelines. We are “not allowed” to use a test kit on someone like you, she explains. There is such a shortage that we are just not allowed to! So I simply must find a way to develop a fever of at least 101.5 if I want to get tested. She ends on a upbeat hope: Maybe your fever will spike up to 101.5 over the weekend and then you can call in for an appointment next week! Fingers crossed for getting a good fever! Okay, thanks.

This is not the county jail nurse I am talking with. That kind soul has fewer resources and staff. It is not the public health department, historically strapped for money in our for-profit society. It is not even the county or the state hospital, where they struggle for full funding and resort to asking for donations (just like our public schools do). This is a private, nonprofit hospital recently bought out by the megalith Providence, a subsidiary of the even more megalith Catholic Church. But I cannot get tested for Corona exposure by my own doctor – as a symptomatic healthcare worker with excellent insurance and a documented exposure – because my body temperature runs low. I guess I can comfort myself that if I do succumb to the virus, at least I can die coolly, and well insured.

I call my hospital’s employee health office, and spend some time on hold with them. No doubt, they are overwhelmed as well. They tell me that I should “follow the guidelines online” and go to my own doctor, because they just cannot test everybody. My doctor won’t test me, I tell them. They repeat that my doctor “should” test me. When I explain that my boss told me I had been exposed at work, and they have a duty and an obligation to test me, an awkward pause ensues. Clearly, the runaround had been working pretty well for the person answering the phone, until now. I told her I had looked over our website, and done online searches, but could not find the specific place to find testing, apply for testing, or any contact information, but this number. She apologized and told me “it should be there”. I told her it was not accessible, and asked her to verbally instruct me as to what the procedure was, as far as she knew it. Presumably Employee Health had been given some training, some information, regarding employee testing? Where do I go? How do I get tested?

Oh, dear! She was sorry but could not tell me any details of the testing options for employees, as “that is being handled by another hospital” which is odd, as that “other hospital” is one recently bought in the series of shell game hospital buyouts and sellouts – by the state hospital where I work. Too bad the person on the phone – my coworker – has no information about how people who work at our hospital – like me – can be tested, how long it takes, or anything about the process, but can only direct me to a website. Why do I feel like I am calling Comcast Customer Service when I am calling my own Employee Health office – part of our Human Resources? Wouldn’t they be the ones to be informed and provide vital healthcare prevention and testing information for vital healthcare workers? But they have no information because a hospital “we” just bought is “doing the testing” so “we” don’t know. Thus, my own doctor refers me to 800-numbers for public health, and my own hospital where I was exposed refers me back to a website.

As of now, I have filled out the employee testing request form (not available to contract interpreters) and am waiting for a call back for a phone interview, to see if I can be granted the chance to waste a precious test kit on my humble nostrils. I would hope that my being a healthcare worker, exposed at work, and now running a fever, might weigh in on my side, and I can feel my fever rising as I type these words. If it rises enough, I may even qualify to get tested.

For the record, I will be as surprised as any of my readers if this becomes my last post, and I fade into the darkness and silence of the grave (especially as I plan to be cremated and have my ashes cast into the sea). My concerns are broader. If I cannot get tested, then who can? These barriers to testing, in the best of circumstances, are bound to increase people’s exposure to the disease. And what about the thousands of contract interpreters across our state and elsewhere, who roam from clinic to hospital, and don’t even have an “employee health” to turn to? Will they all stay home with no income, or just work unless and until very ill, as they unwittingly spread the virus among vulnerable patients? Who if anyone is arranging to have interpreters work via video remote or telephone as possible? And we are of course a miniscule slice of an immense pie.

I dread to think about those millions upon millions without health insurance in the midst of so much concentrated wealth. Those with compromised immune systems or weak lungs. Those who cannot afford to stay home for a week or two just in case. Those who cannot speak the language or for other reasons even begin to negotiate our complex healthcare system. Beyond health risks, the societal implications are unfathomable, with small businesses going under, schools closing, travel bans, and a huge swath of working people facing job loss and financial implosion.

As a contractor myself who pays at least 25% of my adjusted gross business income on taxes, it is surreal to be in a place where huge global corporations – the same ones that have lobbied to use our city as a tax haven while distressing our tax-supported infrastructures to the breaking point – are now considering using a slice of their astronomical profits to produce and deliver free Corona test kits to symptomatic residents as an act of “charity” – a task our public health department could have afforded, if we had a reasonable tax system that was fair and equitable across the board. One of many symptoms of a sick economic structure that the Corona virus merely highlights.

As a healthcare worker, I fervently hope that part of our recovery can be taking a better, closer look at our healthcare. Our patch-work business model healthcare delivery system, with its severe lack of coordination and financial barriers for patients, can turn into a literal death sentence for thousands almost overnight. I fervently hope that this virus may lead to fundamental change in healthcare delivery for our nation. It is past time to create and sustain a viable, funded, staffed and preventive public healthcare system. And no, it is not too late, because this is not the first and will not be the last pandemic. If nothing else, let us learn from our mistakes. Let this be our wake-up call for healthcare reform. Let the Corona virus be an eye-opening blessing in disguise – for those of us who survive it. And for those who succumb to it, rest in peace.