As Christmas approached, I realized it had been 9 long months since I had been wearing a mask. I hadn’t eaten inside a restaurant, our adult children braved the grocery store, we stopped visiting friends. We sacrificed family holiday gatherings for safety. We were toeing the “stay home, stay safe” line.
And yet – I still got Covid-19. My first reaction was guilt – what did I do wrong? But this is the nature of an airborne virus that doctors describe as “efficient,” meaning that it is easily transmitted. It is virtually everywhere in our everyday environment and now it had entered my home and my family.
Each of us had a different experience with the disease. Our 24-year old son got a sore throat and felt a bit tired. My husband experienced three days of fever, achiness, and a lingering cough. I grew increasingly exhausted and napped for hours every day. My doctor advised me to measure my oxygen level; when our drug store oximeter measured a concerningly low level, she directed me to the emergency room.
The sun was just rising as we drove to UMass. I looked forward to relief from the tiredness and the constant pressure in my chest. I envisioned a warm welcome by worried caregivers who would tuck me into bed for evaluation and treatment.
The reality of an over-busy emergency department was much different. The harried receptionist barely took my name before directing me to the “dirty room.” That description did nothing to raise my spirits. This waiting room looked like something out of a horror film with visibly ill patients slouching in a sea of uncomfortable chairs.
Hours went by. My vital signs were checked and I was sent back to the waiting room. Having a chest x-ray raised my hopes that I might soon be seen by a doctor but again, back to the waiting room. By 5:00 pm I was ready to give up. My husband, who sat outside in the car all day, texted with me about the advisability of returning the following day to try again.
Just as I stood up to go home, my name was called. That long-awaited bed was provided as they determined I needed treatment. I was transferred to the field hospital at the DCU center which was a marvel of engineering; that vast space had been converted into rows of patient rooms divided by curtains and surrounded by temporary nurses’ stations filled with computers and diagnostic equipment. It was surprisingly quiet and felt like a place of healing.
I received extraordinary care there. Nurses, aides, therapists, and doctors checked on me constantly. Mostly what I needed were steroids to strengthen my tired lungs and time – time to rest, sleep, and recover.
When they sent me home after five days, they offered this daunting prediction – “you will feel crummy for two more weeks.” Bedrest was recommended.
Medicine healed my body. But prayer, compassion, love, and thoughtfulness healed my spirit. Kindness poured into my home as people prayed, sent cards, provided meals, emailed soothing music, ran errands, and delivered flowers. I heard from friends and relatives across the country who were wishing me well.
My congregation embodied graciousness and compassion by giving me the necessary, invaluable gift of time. They assured me that they would carry on the work of the church. And they did. They continued to care for one another and for the people in our community. They organized worship and even completed onerous tasks like annual reports and a balanced church budget.
I am filled with gratitude – both for my healing and for the generous help that made it possible. Never underestimate the power of that prayer, card, text, or email. The caring and compassion of family and friends were powerful agents in my recuperation.
With renewed appreciation for my health and for the power of the people of God, I belatedly enter into this new year confident that God will see us through and provide us the necessary strength and courage. May God bless us as we endeavor to share God’s hope, peace, and healing love.