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The C-Word

The C-word. After Doni’s recent article on the subject of cussing, you might think I mean ‘that’ c-word, but I don’t (yet). These days there’s another big bad c-word in town. You guessed it: coronavirus, or COVID-19 if you prefer. Speaking of cussing I sort of want to call it that f***ing virus for the duration of this column, but I won’t, or I’ll have to PayPal Doni a lot of money for her swear jar (plus, my mom reads my column, so…).

In response to a recent blog post in which I mused about what to write next for ANC, a dear friend (hi, Erika!) suggested an article about coronavirus, and the impact it is having on us, here. At the time my reply was something like, “Eh, I think we’re all so tired of hearing about this, who will want to read even more?” But I’ve realized that this topic isn’t going away anytime soon (oh, that it would!), so rather than ignore the virus-laden elephant in the room, here I am with a few more c-words that I think are relevant right now.

~Coronavirus (obviously): I won’t repeat the things you’re seeing and hearing everywhere about hand-washing, social distancing and sanitizing etc. – you know what to do. I have to say, though, I am terrified of coronavirus. My husband has asthma, COPD and bronchiectasis on top of kidney failure. He is a prime example of an at-risk patient. My worst fear in the first instance is that I will get the virus and pass it on to him. I don’t want to kill the love of my life. I feel this fear deep in my guts; I actually recoil, inwardly, if I think about it too much. This is of course followed closely by the desperate fear that Sem will get it from anyone at all, because he is my life and I don’t want to lose him. He has fought so long and so hard to stay alive in spite of so many health issues, and it seems especially cruel that this particular pandemic is aimed directly at people with respiratory illnesses, like Sem (and probably some of you or your dearest loved ones, too).

~Coping: So how do we all cope? For starters, follow the WHO-recommended things. Don’t believe nonsense. Double-check sources.

~Common sense (okay, two words, but still…): Have to go shopping for groceries? Do so with care (and follow up with all the WHO-recommended things). Don’t buy 734 rolls of toilet paper. Limit travel. Bored, and want to go out with all your pals? Please, just don’t. Get your preferred beverage and Skype your friends, or Facetime them, or whatever – we certainly have plenty of ways to be together virtually, rather than physically. No, it’s not the same, but it’ll do.

~Calm: How to be calm, when it feels like an invisible, invincible foe is rapidly charging to surround and attack us all? (Or is it just me who feels this way?) I wish I could address this one better. I think about COVID-19 just about every waking moment, and some of the sleeping ones, too. But I’m trying to find ways to distract myself. I’m immersing myself in books, but there are also some really cool things happening online, especially useful if you are self-isolating and/or keeping socially distant. You might have seen these already, but the Metropolitan Opera will be streaming operas for free and there are museums which have provided virtual tours so you can always get a little more of another c-word: culture! (Have any more great links? Please share them in comments!)

~Community: I saw this notice posted today on the Facebook page of our former village: “Community Transport are putting plans in place to help the over 70s if they have to self-isolate. We will have a contact number for them to call and we will deliver what they need (…) as we need to work together to look after our elderly. This will be a free service, so let us help you.” I got kind of teary-eyed when I saw that, and wished fervently that we still lived there because that’s just how lovely they can be. But a few minutes later I spotted a notice on one of the community sites for our town, about a new Facebook page set up specifically for the same thing: getting supplies to vulnerable folks in this area. The response was immediate, with people volunteering to do shopping for others, to bring hot meals if needed, or to just check up on folks. I was wrong about this town; there’s still a lot of heart in it.

Sheep, socially distancing themselves.

~C-words (yes, THAT c-word); see also: con-artists, charlatans: Because of course no disaster is complete without those jerks who will do their utmost to exploit people who are afraid, alone, and vulnerable. You know they’ll find a way, if they haven’t already. Help anyone you know who is vulnerable not to fall for scams, even if it’s to ask them to check with you first, if they are offered unsolicited help from strangers.

~Call: Feeling isolated, whether you’re self-isolating or your family/friends are doing so? Call. These days we’re all so used to texting and emailing that it might feel kind of weird to call someone up for an actual chat. Make a cup of something nice, sit back, and have a good old-fashioned ‘blether’ as they would say here. Maybe try not to focus solely on coronavirus fears even if it means setting a time limit. “Let’s give ourselves ten minutes to freak out a little bit about the virus but then let’s talk about other things,” is one way to go (I plan to implement this soon with my twice-weekly calls to my Mama, who probably already gets tired of my desperate keening about our already-dominated-by-health-woes life, and doesn’t need me to add endless virus-fears to the list). Before Sem and I got married, when we had to spend long months on opposite sides of the ocean, we played Battleship online with much trash-talk and laughter throughout. There are ways to spend time with someone that don’t have to involve being face to face, thanks to the phone and internet!

~Compassion: People are scared, and if they are more scared than you are, it’s NOT okay to be a cretin about it. Scoffing at their fears just makes them feel worse, believe me. Compassion also extends to anyone you deal with in situations which are now stressful – in grocery stores or at doctor’s offices, with people who are already feeling stretched beyond their limits. Just because your local shop doesn’t have any hand sanitizer this week does not mean you should take out your frustration on the people who work there. If your doctor’s office has to postpone a routine checkup, realize that right now it’s not all about you. Which brings me to the next c-word…

Consideration: Similar to compassion. Please think of others. Sem and another dialysis patient are currently trying to deal with another patient who refuses to cover his mouth when he coughs – and he coughs a lot, explosively, all through the four-hour dialysis session. They complained to the nurses about him (weeks before coronavirus appeared, by the way) and for a week or so he was moved to a side room. The nurses must have had a quiet word with him because when he was allowed back in to the main room, he covered his mouth when he coughed… for about two days. Now he covers his mouth if he thinks someone is looking at him, but mostly he’s back to his old, disgusting ways: hack-splutter-wheeze straight into the room. This is a man in his 60s who should have learned to cover his mouth decades ago. So, yeah. Don’t be that guy. Be aware of how you interact with people – personal space is a must, right now, as is not coughing in people’s faces, or all over the produce aisle. Cover up!

~Charmin/Cottonelle: STOP STOCKPILING TOILET PAPER. I know I already mentioned it, but… seriously.

Drawing credit: Sem.

~Cheer: Share good things. Whether it’s coronavirus-related videos like Italians singing with each other through open windows above deserted streets, or Spaniards applauding every night at 10pm in honor of the healthcare workers who are going out each day in the face of this awful thing, or funny cat videos, or clips of babies laughing or dogs greeting owners they haven’t seen in a long time… Share the things that will give someone a lift. We all need a break sometimes, before we square up and face the pandemic again.

~One more: Cherish. As in, cherish those you love and care about. I have cherished Sem from the very start, and since his kidney failure diagnosis in 2009 I have treasured every moment we have had together so far – even the tough ones. Health issues create that kind of focus, and Sem has had too many near-misses for me to take one single day with him for granted. Love is strong but life is fragile… we know that all too well, and these days I think more people feel it, too, if they haven’t already felt it before.

I’m sure there are plenty of other c-words that apply to this situation, but we all have dictionaries so I’ll stop now.

So far we’ve got two confirmed cases of coronavirus here in the Highlands, but officials are refusing to say where (‘the Highlands’ covers a large area), so I don’t know how close it is to our town. I think the safest assumption is that it’s pretty much everywhere. Sem and I went shopping yesterday to get a few things and when we got home we decided that there would no more trips to the store for Sem, for a while, and I’ll be going out at an absolute minimum. Unfortunately Sem has no choice but to go to the hospital three times a week for hemodialysis, but he will take care while he’s there, hand-washing and so on. The good thing is that he doesn’t have to touch any doors to get where he needs to be, but I understand and share his trepidation at being in a hospital during something like this.

A final note: if you are someone who is dealing with this hands-on, in whatever capacity (medical, supply chain, emergency services, caregivers), I want to say thank you. To paraphrase something I recently read: when the world takes a step back, you all take a step forward. We can’t get through this without you… so thank you, from my heart.

We also can’t get through this without each other. Whether you contribute by doing something practical for someone, or the way you’re helping is by socially distancing yourself and being a conscientious hand-washer, thank you, too. Some governments are stepping up, while others still aren’t, but more and more it seems like people are taking it upon themselves to be sensible. I think that will go a long way towards easing the situation. If we keep each other in mind, in all the things we do, we can at the very least help simply by not making things worse.

Be safe, dear readers.