Saturday, May 16, 2020

Death in the time of COVID-19 is different

There seems no point to saying this; I don't know if anyone would even care. But I just feel I want it said somewhere.

Death in the time of COVID-19 is different. And it's not just about the virus.

My wife died this morning. She had been terrified of contracting and dying of COVID-19. Not without good cause: She was a diabetic and had a heart attack in her history, so she had a compromised immune system - and that plus being 69 put her well intro the high-risk category.

But, no. She died of a heart attack.

Last night she was complaining of painful breathing and asked me to call 911. The EMTs were there in no more than 10 minutes. As they checked her out, she was alert and aware and a quick ECG didn't indicate any major problems - but because of her history, they took her to the ER for observation.

As the EMTs worked on her in the ambulance, I stood in the rain, determined not to turn away until they left and were gone from my sight. I recalled a time I was working away from home for some time and she would come by train to visit me - and when she left to go home, I would do much the same: I would watch the train leave until it was out of sight. A way to hold on to her presence a bit longer.

So I stood in the rain and I watched and waited because I couldn't be with her in the ER. I couldn't be with her when a few hours later I was told she had deteriorated badly and had been moved to critical care and put on a ventilator. I couldn't be with her a couple of hours after that when her heart finally gave up trying. I couldn't sing to her one last time. I couldn't let her know she was not alone.

All because of that damn disease, all because of precautions against spreading it.

I understand the need, I do - but still it hurts so very much.

And it hurts extra thinking of all the others who have died and who will die, not just from the virus but from a multitude of causes, dying without a familiar face, without a familiar touch, there at the end, all those who, no matter how caring the hospital staff may be, still in a very real sense die alone.

As my wife did.

Because of that damn disease.

Death in the time of COVID-19 is different.


A PS, which I include strictly for the sake of the record. I learned later from her cardiologist that it wasn't her heart. It was a massive bacterial infection that got into her blood, sending her into sepsis and her compromised immune system simply wasn't capable of fighting it off. It changes nothing.
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