To hell in a handbasket

hell_in_a_handbasket

If there’s one thing I’ve learned by going through COVID-19 with my whole family, it’s that the general medical community was completely unprepared.

Now don’t get me wrong… emergency medicine has performed valiantly!

I honestly can’t imagine being faced with the decision to protect my own health or jump into the deep end with both feet to save infected patients (often without proper protective equipment)… knowing I could be next.

Wow! To those folks on the front line of this crisis, you have my extreme gratitude. I know some personally, and their stories are simply heartbreaking.

But today’s issue is about what I learned about general medicine — not emergency medicine — in the midst of this crisis…

And what they (and I) were completely unprepared to handle!

I started getting sick on a Friday. And as you may already know from my previous post, it didn’t take long for my whole family to get sick.

If you’d spent even a little time reading the news about COVID-19, the first thing you were told to do is…

Call your doctor.

Your doctor is the one that could help you determine if you should get tested. So Monday morning I placed a call to my primary care physician. This is the same physician I’ve had over 20 years!

I quickly got the receptionist on the phone and explained what was happening… my husband and I were experiencing symptoms we suspected could be coronavirus. And then asked the crucial question… “how are you handling these situations?”

I was honestly shocked by the answer!

I was told, “call the health department.” Flabbergasted, I said “That’s it? Can the doctor at least schedule a visit by phone or Facetime to assess our symptoms to determine if it could be something else?”

“No, we aren’t doing that. Call the health department.” So, this will be the second time in today’s issue I’ll use the word, WOW…

Just WOW!

I was stunned. Of course, as I’m sure you may be well aware, testing was non-existent a mere three weeks ago. And my husband and I did not meet the minimum qualifications to be tested at that time.

A few days later, as my kids started showing symptoms, I had a little more success with the pediatrician.

I made a call and they immediately set up a visit via Facetime with a doctor. He was very nice and sympathetic as he listened to our plight… but he had absolutely nothing to offer other than, “they are not testing children, and there is no advice I can offer you except go to the emergency room if things get worse.”

OK, now I’m on my fourth WOW of this issue. To say I was angry is an understatement. Primary Care medicine was failing me right before my eyes. I’ve honestly never felt more alone in my life…

Up a creek without a paddle… with a hole in the bottom of the canoe.

Consider this… we were the lucky ones. For that, I’m incredibly thankful. Our case was mild to moderate. I can’t imagine what it was like to go through what we went through… but then get worse and brave the same chaos in the emergency room.

At the height of my illness, I had a no news policy. And I’m a newshound. But the anxiety the news brought on was tremendous and made my symptoms so much worse.

It was only after I started to fully recover that I waded back into the news pond. And let me tell you, the stories of those that had to go to an emergency room… only to be sent home… and then eventually go back once they got even sicker are devastating.

And folks, this a solo illness. If you go to the ER, you’re alone. No family is allowed in to hold your hand, soothe your nerves or bring you comfort.

So, what did I learn?

I learned that we weren’t prepared from top to bottom. Could the world have been more prepared for this catastrophe? Absolutely! But this message is not about how governments could have been more prepared…

… this message is about how you can be more prepared should you find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to make it through “the COVID.”

I want to make absolutely sure you know exactly what to do, what to expect and what you’ll need in your home arsenal if or when the time comes.

Because every single health organization from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) to respected Johns Hopkins University and Harvard agree this coronavirus (officially called Sars-CoV-2) is going to be a lasting threat.

According to a paper published in Science by researchers from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the re-emergence of the virus is possible over the next four years.

And they suggested “prolonged or intermittent distancing may be necessary into 2022” unless a vaccine or improved treatment was available, or critical care capacity — which has been widely overwhelmed — was increased substantially.

“Even in the event of apparent elimination, Sars-CoV-2 surveillance should be maintained since a resurgence in contagion could be possible as late as 2024.”

In plain language: Social distancing must remain in some capacity, testing must be more widely implemented, contact tracing must get a lot better and isolation of infected people must be swiftly implemented… or this virus will continue to wreak havoc for years to come.

Oh, and scientists have to be given all the resources they need to develop a vaccine or treatment toot sweet.

And others have suggested that like the yearly flu, it could become seasonal…

According to Johns Hopkins senior scholar Dr. Amesh Adalja, “It’s going to become a part of our seasonal respiratory virus family that causes disease.”

He expects the current outbreak to spread even further in our country before this round is over.

Back on Jan. 31, I wrote this (I’ve highlighted the most important parts)…

Stopping the spread is paramount

Most viruses are spread the same way, and first and foremost, you must take basic precautions to stop the spread.

So far, it appears that this coronavirus is spread through personal contact only, like from upper respiratory droplets (sneezing, coughing and touching contaminated objects), so these steps should take priority:

Wash your hands regularly — Practicing good handwashing, even more often than you think is necessary, can help protect you from coronavirus.

Block the gateways — Coronaviruses need somewhere to enter your body — your eyes, nose or mouth — so avoid touching those as much as possible.

Consider a mask — Consider (especially if you have a compromised immune system) wearing a mask to avoid inhaling the respiratory droplets from the potentially sick people around you when going places that draw crowds such as grocery stores.

It may feel silly the first time, but feeling silly is far better than actually getting sick.

At the least, purchase masks now from your local pharmacy for future use as they will disappear quickly in the event of a true crisis.

Disinfect everything — If your immune system is compromised, you might want to also consider gloves as part of your virus-prevention strategy. Everyone else should always carry disinfectant wipes and cleanse everything before touching it — such as grocery cart handles. Buy gloves, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes now rather than wait until an emergency.

Get in the habit of using wipes daily on the things we touch most, such as light switches, refrigerator door handles, toilet bowel handles, faucet handles, etc.

Yet again, sorry… I could not have anticipated what happened with toilet paper. It boggles the mind!