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Christmas Eve

As a physician and a musician, the past twenty-two months have been filled with personal suffering and sacrifice. My pediatric practice has been severely affected, as I practice in New Rochelle, the former epicenter of the pandemic back in March, 2020. As a horn player, my musical practice has also suffered, as most concerts have been on hiatus during the pandemic.

When things started to improve, I felt fortunate to get to play a few concerts and shows this fall, but as things started getting worse again in November and December, I was disappointed that once again the churches where I usually play for Christmas and Easter didn’t want me. They felt that it was too risky to have brass and wind instruments.
Then one day a friend, a singer, recommended me to play a Christmas eve service, so I eagerly accepted. When I showed up for the rehearsal an hour before the service, and I didn’t see my friend, another singer, a soprano, told me that my friend wouldn’t be there because he didn’t want to be exposed to COVID and bring it home to his unvaccinated toddler. She explained that her son tested positive that morning, but she and her husband, the organist, tested negative and were asymptomatic. They assured me that they would be masked the entire time and distanced from me. I was concerned because I can’t play french horn with a mask. I decided to stay and play, and the service went well, but I was nervous that I might have been exposed. So when I arrived back at my office on Monday, I tested myself, and the results were negative.
The next day, I got a text message from my friend, telling me that the soprano tested positive for COVID-19. It made me angry that she didn’t tell me herself. In retrospect, I thought that she and her husband should have stayed home and quarantined. I guess they thought they were protected because they were fully vaccinated and boosted.
The day after that, I had a little headache, so Thursday I went to my office early to test myself again. And again, I tested negative.
This experience has me wondering about a number of things. Why didn’t they tell me before driving to the church? Had they done so, I probably would have backed out. Is that why they didn’t tell me beforehand? Given the recent surge in the epidemic, should I have taken this risk? I enjoyed playing horn for this service, but was it worth it?
In the last few days, I’ve been asking other brass players to recommend special masks for brass players. I’m going to order a few. I don’t want to take the risk again, yet I do want to keep playing, once it feels a little safer.
Marc D. Wager
New Rochelle, New York

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