Diminished

So…I bet you know what’s on my mind today. Every day. For the past three months. It’s made me so upset I couldn’t form coherent thoughts and write about it until today, when I decided I’d had enough time and needed to just get it out.

But Kat, don’t be hysterical! It’s just like the flu. Except more contagious and more deadly. Yes, and the flu killed 34,000+ Americans during the 2018-2019 flu season. Honestly, all this tells me is that you morons aren’t freaking out ENOUGH about the flu. It affects the same groups of people, but we all go out and get the vaccine every year to at least partially protect ourselves, right? RIGHT?!

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These two ladies have a high risk of complications from COVID-19.

We only have like 267 deaths here out of 300 million! Yes, and two months ago today, we had *one* case in the entire country. We have no idea the magnitude of this event as of yet. Just relax, it only kills older people and folks with other health conditions. 

And here is where I get ragey. First of all, YOU ARE INCORRECT. While being older raises your risk of death, it does not exclusively kill older people. I was checking out at a store two weeks ago and the cashier asked me how my day had been so far, and I jokingly said, “fine, no one has coughed on me yet!” And he replied, “meh, it’ll be fine. We just have to stay away from anyone over sixty and we’ll be safe.” All I could think was, holy shit, he thinks *only* old people catch this disease?! COVID-19 is not a disease of the elderly, it’s a killer of the elderly. I gently tried to explain that anyone can catch it and spread it, which is what makes it so serious, since certain populations are at very high risk of complications. His eyes glazed over and he seemed confused, and I said a little prayer for the world because how could we possibly be getting the messaging so wildly wrong?

The real issue I have with the messaging for the pandemic is how reassured we should all be, since it “only” kills older people, and those with other health conditions. Don’t worry, it just kills people who are already living with chronic health issues. Whew! Thank God, because those people’s lives were garbage anyway, right? It’s really a mercy to let them all get sick and die because I just can’t EVEN with missing spring break, am I right? Don’t you ever speak about the chronically ill this way, or be prepared to feel my full wrath.

The notion that those of us with chronic ailments aren’t whole human beings with full lives worthy of protecting is disgusting. Or, for that matter, that people over the age of sixty should be ready to meet Jesus at any time because that’s really enough living, okay? Those people could live another thirty years! And I’m glad you’re feeling confident in your own superior health, since the National Health Council estimates that more than 40% of Americans have a chronic disease. Do you feel that it’s more okay for 40% of the people in this country to die than you?

I was born with an autoimmune disease as part of my DNA, but wasn’t diagnosed until I was 23. My immune system is trying to murder my digestive tract, so I take medication to suppress my immune response. As a result, I am more likely to have severe complications when I contract any sort of infection, because my immune system is purposely being hampered in order to save my life. Periodically, I have flareups of my disease and my medication is doubled and/or I must take steroids, lowering my immune system further. But I am a whole person with a full life, and I deserve protection from a society that values all lives. I’m a thirty-four year old wife and mother of three children, who is otherwise in very good health. My only restrictions are certain foods that might send me to the emergency room, and thoroughly planned travel avoiding places without emergency care just in case. Is my life a side note just because I can’t eat walnuts?

Unless you are a hermit who never interacts with the outside world, you know someone with a chronic health issue. Maybe they don’t know it themselves yet, or maybe it’s you. It only kills sick people. I am the only. The cancer patient on your Facebook feed is the only. Your diabetic friend is the only. All of your parents are the only. Young kids with cystic fibrosis, folks with hereditary heart disease, anyone who is HIV positive? Only.

The dismissive way the media and authorities speak about us is hurtful, and truly bizarre, coming from an elderly president whose blood is made of Big Mac sauce and thinks human energy is finite and exercise will use it up and kill you. But we won’t necessarily die, we will probably require long hospital stays on your precious ventilators to stay alive. While COVID-19 does cause death, that percentage is small compared to the level of people who will require hospitalization to avoid death. In Italy, they have resorted to wartime triage because they can’t care for everyone who tests positive and needs help, so they select patients that are more likely to survive to receive care, and the rest die gasping for breath.

If we don’t get serious about social distancing, staying TF home, dedicated handwashing and sterilizing, the same thing will happen here. The first cases in South Korea and America were discovered at the same time. South Korea has tested 300,000 people, and while our government is loathe to give hard figures, the estimate for testing in the US is 170,000. I have read dozens of stories from people unable to get tested despite showing symptoms, because we simply don’t have enough test kits. And if we make the same mistakes Italy has, not locking down enough of our cities and take strict precautions, it will be me who is left gasping in order to save a healthier, whole person rather than waste limited resources on someone who is chronically ill. I am thirty-four and have a husband and three children six and under. I am not an only, I am someone’s everything, and so is everyone else. As Governor Cuomo said, “we need everyone to be safe, otherwise no one is safe.” So stay TF home, take precautions, call Grandma, but don’t visit, and stop hoarding toilet paper, you idiots. COVID-19 causes pneumonia, not (in most cases) diarrhea.

 

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