This coronavirus not only has changed our lives, but for some, it has changed them in almost an instant. From Lake Forest, Illinois, Harpreet Datt writes about the quieting life she was leading, until she thought the virus had invaded her space.
On a recent Tuesday, a motley group of women gathered once again, as they do two times a month and have done so for the last 130 years, to listen to written work of a fellow member. This year’s title, “Resilience,” gave no clue about its content, yet it fits so well into the crisis we are faced with today.
This twice-monthly gathering always has avoided the disquiet that pervades this microcosm of ours, insidiously and forever filtering into our lives via the airwaves, the newspapers, and now in 2020, through the myriad devices that use electrical impulses to convey ideas and thoughts across the globe in nanoseconds.
The formal withdrawal to the dining room after each meeting’s reading for high tea keeps, as the name suggests, some of the trappings of tradition intact, framing conversations about modern structure, adaptability, and change in a lively exchange. The fellowship enriches in unimaginable ways its pace and its consistency. The interactions give refuge.
Only days after the most recent gathering though, the homeostasis of my body is broken by rising temperature and fluid imbalance, and my restless sleep continues for three days. There is no fluid in my lungs, but breathing is a bit labored, as it often is, and my physician suspects it is most likely not related to that elusive microscopic unicellular non-living organism with many names— coronavirus, Covid-19, Wuhan virus, Chinese virus, kung-flu etc; the name you use might be dependent on political alignment with no regard to scientific nomenclature.
However, considering the risk factors, my history of pulmonary infections, age, recent allergic reaction to medication, and the positive detection in the household, I was asked to “get myself tested.”
So a couple of days later, although the fever had subsided, I presented myself at the test center. The clinic appeared deserted, yet upon entry, there was a sign to take one of the masks from the box. As I slipped one on, I heard a voice direct me to the end of the hall towards the security guard, who was wearing a mask that looked like mine. I was asked to wait at least 10 feet from the five or six other masked people in the room until the person standing near a door left. I entered another room with two people working in it, one on the phone and the other behind the desk. A woman asked my name and date of birth, plus insurance information until she and quickly corrected herself that she doesn’t need insurance information.
She listened intently to my story— my words distorted by the unfamiliar mask— and she asked me to repeat myself when she heard I was asymptomatic by then— no fever, fluids balance intact, and no cough. I was asked to leave without completing the test. But I stood my ground, till a doctor sitting in an adjacent room overrode the decision and asked me to wait outside.
About a half-hour later, the doctor called me back in and explained that after speaking to the manager, I was not eligible for testing. Yes, I am high risk. But no, the primary care doctor is unaware of the eligibility requirements and I have no fever at this point. I am to return home and self-isolate and as a consolation prize, they can perform a physical exam if I wish. That’s it!
Today, I decided to document my experience, anecdotal though it may be, as it will be argued back and forth ad infinitum in politics, between friends, amongst acquaintances in a country that is seen as a world leader, skipping over the personal human toll, unashamed of its focus on the health of the economy and not on its people.
Back to the late winter sunlight that filters to the dormant grass through the myriad branches of the honeylocust tree. When summer comes again, the tree will keep the light’s harshness away by blocking its path with a million little leaves. And the grass will grow green and tall, only to find itself sheared by a sharp blade.