Orville Taylor | COVID-19 came home to me
I am case 40,000-and-something. Another statistic. This isn’t Eric Garner or George Floyd … but I can’t breathe either. It is 1 a.m.; I have no idea what day it is, but I know I have to wake up. There is no pain when I sleep. Sleep is peaceful and encourages me to not wake. But wake up I must ... I do, and gasp a half-lungful of air. Deeper breaths hurt like hell, and the middle of my chest sears with pain like torn muscles – it is a butterfly of pain. My knowledge of anatomy tells me that my bronchus is inflamed and a COVID-19 spider is building a web in my chest. If I don’t sit up and pump this Ventolin, I am going to die. It is not fear so much, but fear of what it will do to those who need me to live.
He is innocent…I can’t leave him now. My wife is in deep slumber, don’t want to wake her. She is not strong enough to know that it is death I am facing and not just the illness. The Ventolin is puffed thrice and I inhale until the entire chest feels like coal fire – darkness!
Back comes my Seido Karate. No ibuki (loud, slow and forceful exhaling). I do nogare (exhale silently). This same technique is part of what doctors recommend. But Ibuki and Nogare have been part of my daily regimen. I work the lungs. Before the puff, my oxygen level was 88.
ONE OF NINE NIGHTS
She did not stir, thank God. I measured the oxygen and it beeped up to 96. For the next two hours I pumped, read the oximeter and felt assured that it was safe to fall back asleep. That was one of nine straight nights. A temperature of 100 to 101 degrees Fahrenheit followed me like a bad reputation. Mercury says I am hot, but I am shivering like a drug mule.
My recently departed primary-school teacher came to me in my dreams and scolded me about improperly preparing a wedding. For three nights, Miss Ivy asked me to come to the house. The last time she showed me a plot of land. We had multiple guests and she had food for all of them. “Mamma, you left no food for me?” She said no…and I woke up. Okay Orville, it makes sense. Keep on pumping those lungs Man in Black, your family needs you. But there are so many others who truly love you, too. There is work to be done.
No matter who is close to you; death is something you do all alone.
On Good Friday morning he sent a black boat for me which docked at my bed foot. I was half-awake and pumping the chest again. Nah, not going aboard.
Daylight, and a chorus keeps ringing in my head. I don’t know the song. But it came together on Resurrection Sunday: “The resurrected King is resurrecting me.”
Take whatever you want from that. You might find stupid comfort in the fact that only three per cent of COVID-19 patients die from it. Another 30 per cent become gravely ill and are sick for months, with some new chronic lifetime diseases. These include diabetes, hypertension and cardiac issues. For many persons who experience COVID-19 pneumonia, they will never ever be able to be a long-distance stulla. They will be lung-scarred for life.
And since it is the same dancehall-going, no-mask-wearing, cocky 18 to 30 generation, learn this. One side effect of COVID-19 is prostate damage and impotence – COVID-19 is no joke. Never mind the data about it only affecting persons with co-morbidities and senior citizens. This devil is strange. My asthmatic friend had virtually no symptoms. Yet my young, fit, 30-year-old colleague, with no other weaknesses, kissed death, like me, just weeks before. Some of you won’t understand, until your sister, mother or close relative die gasping for breath in front of you or, worse, after being isolated from you for months.
I almost died, although I was prepared when the first member of my household tested positive. My soldierly, spousal care and all the medicines – the turmeric, vitamin C and everything else in-between. All the bush teas our granny taught us about, sometimes it felt like I was in some balm yard. My cousins brought me a potent mixture. More zinc than in a tenement yard was on my bed table, and an entire nation and diaspora prayed for me. Yet, I almost died.
A study of more than 230,000 patients reports that COVID-19 takes a toll on the brain. One out of every three patients develop some type of brain disorder. This includes strokes, depression, anxiety and dementia. So, watch me close if I blow up on you; but remember, Bellevue won’t give you a care package for bringing me in.
I am struggling to finish this column; my eyes are blurred. Another puff of the inhaler gets me going again. Hopefully, my editor will look twice as hard to see if an expletive escaped in the narrative.
COVID-19 is a killer, do everything to avoid getting it.
- Dr Orville Taylor is head of the Department of Sociology at The University of the West Indies, a radio talk-show host, and author of ‘Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets’. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.