In May of this year it will mark my 5th year on Planet 3 of being Fatherless. My father passed away, officially of congestive heart failure but recent events had me reassessing his last few years and weeks.
My father was diabetic, for which he had a leg amputated, and had previously had a kidney removed for renal carcinoma. For the last decade of his life he was on a kidney transplant list and attended dialysis 2-4 times weekly. The man had some of the best healthcare on earth for what could charitably be described as lifestyle diseases, and it allowed him to kick around planet 3 for an extra decade.
Considering my father was the definition of an ambulatory comorbidity whenever he got a cold or the flu he would immediately check himself into the hospital. (A Fact that I always busted his balls about.). To be 100% honest I hadn’t physically spoken with my father for about 7 months before his death as every time I called home, once every few weeks, he was in the hospital for a different ailment. Nothing was ever (nominally) life threatening, just in the hospital for precautionary reasons. It was at one of these hospital visits where he had checked himself into the hospital for a flu, that he had a heart attack, which despite getting excellent top line care, he succumbed to about 2 weeks later.
This wasn’t a man out in a field having a heart attack and not be discovered for hours, he was literally hooked up 24/7 to an EKG and a nurse can run down the hall when the buzzing starts.
Contrast that with what’s going on in Lombardy, Italy. Not a third world country by any means modern medical teams are so overwhelmed with patients that they are forced to not even assess 65+ year old’s with comorbidities suspected of having COVID-19. In other words, they are left to die like the mortally wounded on D-Day strewn upon the dunes of Omaha, Juno and Sword. With Emergency rooms and operating rooms converting to treat the influx of bilateral interstitial pneumonia, treating other conditions like cardiac arrests, strokes or trauma like broken arms are out the window.
I know America has a long way to go in terms of insuring everyone and in lowering health care costs. But as far as dad was concerned he had the best health care (even with a few fuck ups which might have constituted medical malpractice). However he treated hospitalization like a staycation. He was attended to and cared for and he and my mother would be out of each other’s hair for a few days or so.
Hearing the situations that are happening in Hospitals around the world I’m grateful that while he has shuffled off the mortal coil he, as we all do, he left with efforts to heal him and dignity and not shoved in an unlit hallway in the back of a hospital gasping for air in the last hours of his life.
THAT is what this virus does when it’s hits hard and grows exponentially. One minute your posting technically accurate data on flu comparisons like a mini microbiologist and the next minute opthomalogists are pressed into an ICU at 200% capacity triage duty like a battle field medic.
While the overwhelming majority of people who get this virus will recover just fine I hope it doesn’t hit America as hard as it hit Wuhan to start and Italy presently. But how many of my fathers are walking around: diabetic, heart problems, metabolic syndromes, overly medicated, or to put it in a simpler term: Immunocompromised? For a country that spends more for healthcare per capita we certainly have a populace that could act as a tinder box in an epidemic.
After all we DO have tens of thousands die every year from “just the flu” which we right off as a meaningless statistic.
When this is over and we weather this storm, and we will, we will have to have a civilizational talk about what brought us to this moment. But that time is not now.
We have work to do.
Be vigilant and be not afraid for as the Romans would say Dum spiro spero (As I breathe I hope)