River Muse

The storm inside

By CASS COLLINS
Posted 4/1/20

I’m remembering the time 10 years ago when I had the flu and said to myself and anyone listening, “If I were 10 years older, I’d be dead now.” It was the last time I neglected …

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River Muse

The storm inside

Posted

I’m remembering the time 10 years ago when I had the flu and said to myself and anyone listening, “If I were 10 years older, I’d be dead now.” It was the last time I neglected to get a flu shot. When I hear people say they never get a flu shot or that the last time they did, they got sick, I silently think they are foolhardy. Because I remember sitting on the couch: this couch I am sitting on today, under the same old handmade afghan, after 10 days of sticking to my sheets between bouts of fever and weakness and aches, finally being able to sit up and sip some broth. I am not sick now and I aim to stay that way.

Earlier this month, we spent eight days in Costa Rica enjoying sunny days with temperatures in the 90s and balmy nights under a blanket of stars. Monkeys howled in trees nearby. (They are howling at developers, I think, who are chopping down trees to make condos for foreigners like me.) As our time wound down, more dire news of the pandemic COVID-19 filled the airwaves. Every night we enjoyed another restaurant, partaking of the freshest fish, usually red snapper, available that day.

Our hostess, a friend for more than 30 years, began feeling ill the day before we were to fly back to New York. By then, the virus had been confirmed in New York City, as was the first case in Costa Rica by a woman who had traveled from Italy. We talked about staying put in her comfortable condo, but our friends’ job as a judge was important and the courts were staying open.

By the time we all got back to New York, New Rochelle had become a hotbed of the virus. Instead of spending the night in a hotel in the city, we made a beeline for the Catskills.

During the first few days back, we felt safe and happy to be home. We even visited a few of our favorite local restaurants. Then we heard awful news about a dear friend who was hospitalized with the virus in the city. He was on a ventilator in the ICU. We had dined with him at a little Italian restaurant in the Village the night before we left for Costa Rica and teasingly tapped each other’s feet instead of hugging.

Fortunately, both of our friends recovered. The one who was hospitalized experienced what is known as a cytokine storm during confinement in the ICU. This is an awful immune response the body sometimes has to COVID-19, when the very immune system that aims to protect us can damage the body beyond repair. It often leads to death and feels as though a firestorm is raging inside. When COVID-19 takes hold in the lungs, it can turn mucous into a cement-like substance rendering the lungs non-functional. Without medical intervention, death is inevitable. That our friend experienced this and lived is some kind of medical miracle.

Our 14-day quarantine was up a few days ago. We stay at home except to walk the dogs who are blissfully unaware of all this, and to drive to the market where our daughter shops for our groceries and wipes them down before putting them away.

Experiencing the COVID-19 personally but from a distance has sobered us to the reality in a way news reports cannot. Our days of dining out with friends or traveling may be out of sight for now, but with luck and care those days will come again. Stay well.

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Robin Vogel

Sadly, the pandemic seems to be hitting close to home for more and more of us. Please stay careful and vigilant. The cost of not doing so is higher than any one of us should have to pay.

Wednesday, April 1