Tim sat across from me in the small exam room. He was a friend, a colleague, and my doctor. He’d seen me for many years. “We’re walking a tightrope,” he said. Tim’s words rang true. We were balancing my many, complex medical problems.
For me, each day had bocame a carefully choreographed dance. Medications, IV antibiotics, a feeding tube, breathing treatments. A series of precisely coordinated steps, all to forestall my death. I learned to duck under the terror, to tamp down my fear.
Gradually, I grew accustomed to the idea of a foreshortened life. I made choices about code status, levels of intervention, and palliative care. A couple years before, I’d decided I wouldn’t want ICU care. Even as illness damaged my body, I was still able to exert some control over my future.
None of this, though, prepared me for the decisions I’d have to make during the COVID pandemic. I was at high risk of complications and death if I ever caught COVID. So I had to make judgments small and large to minimize my risk of exposure to COVID. Some of these were easy: In-person grocery shopping? No. Mask? Always.
Other decisions were far more complicated. I constantly weighed the chance that I’d be exposed to someone with COVID. This wasn’t easy, as the landscape changed by the month.
My husband is a professor at a local university. This fall, he will be teaching in a “hybrid” model. Though class sizes will be smaller, he will still be around many students each week. We had no doubt he would be exposed to COVID some time during the semester.
The risk for me would be high if we shared the same living space. How could I be protected? We each got a COVID antibody test, hoping one of us would be positive. No such luck. So, after a long discussion, we decided to live separately until there’s a vaccine. We would meet up only outside.
We are fortunate. Our kids are grown. We don’t have a big house or high living expenses, so we can afford to do this.
It was a tough decision. I want a good quality of life. I’ve given up so much already because of my illnesses. But I’m in this for the long haul. I’ve survived too much to have COVID take me out. I’m just hoping this works.
Grand Rapids, Michigan