Time stands still for no one

One year after a life-changing experience, it still feels like yesterday.

The year is half over and it’s hard to believe that this week marks one year since COVID changed my life. It feels like only yesterday. It was a Friday; mom was just ending her second week in the hospital, and I was with her waiting for the nurses to take her into prep for the ERCP to fix the bile duct blockage. That morning I’d been extremely tired and dismissed it as a fibromyalgia flare-up, but as I waited in mom’s room, the pain got worse. The nurses gave me warm blankets, which helped a little, but then I began feeling other symptoms including lethargy. I went downhill immediately. Yes, it was that quick. Thankfully, sis was already on her way into town and as soon as she arrived at the hospital to be with mom, I headed to the ER. Given my symptoms and the fact that I’d spent every day for the previous two weeks at the hospital, the docs deduced I had COVID. The test results confirmed it a few days later.

It began with pain and lethargy, but in a week’s time I had other symptoms including excruciating pain that attacked my legs, lethargy, and the loss of taste, smell, and appetite. And then came the trouble breathing, the pain in my chest, and the pneumonia. It is likely the use of the incentive spirometer 10 times an hour, 8 hours a day, for two weeks that kept me out of the hospital. I was no stranger to that lifesaving device; every time mom had been hospitalized, sis and I (along with the nursing staff) had urged her to use it to keep her lungs healthy. She hated using it, but we would nag her incessantly until she did. As soon as sis found out I had COVID, she was on me about it, nagging me, too. I’m glad she did because when you are as sick as I was, you want to do as little as possible.

As awful as it was to have COVID, none of the symptoms were the worst part of having it. The worst part of having COVID was that it prevented me from visiting mom in the hospital. That day in the hospital was the last day I would ever be with her while she was alive. At least she had my sister there, that is, until about a week later, when we were informed she had been exposed to a health care worker who tested positive for COVID. She required three consecutive negative COVID tests before my sister could visit her. This left mom all alone at a time when she needed us the most. Mom passed away three days before the result of her final test. Though she’d been battling multiple health issues at the time of her death, the one thing she did not have was COVID.

Our family’s experience with COVID was one shared by countless families around the world. They too were prevented from seeing their loved ones before they passed. There are no words to convey how it feels to not have the chance to say goodbye and knowing that your loved one died alone. It just seems so cruel. For my sister and me, we are thankful for the close relationship we had with mom; there were no unspoken words, no feelings unexpressed, and no loose ends to tie up. That is what gives us great solace when we think about her being there alone.

Anyway, as I was saying, it’s hard to believe it’s been nearly a year; it really does feel like it was only yesterday. It is an experience I should want to forget, but really I don’t. I have my reasons.

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