Living with Covid-19, the virus with collateral damage

Some of us have lived through and survived world wars, cold wars, market crashes, tornadoes, hurricanes, Spanish and Asian flus, plane crashes and marital crashes and have come through the other side more or less intact. Now, a virus that came from nowhere has overnight changed the physical and mental landscape of our world.

We retirees are perhaps best equipped to deal with Covid: we already had reduced expectations when forced into social isolation, more time at our disposal and we have broader experience of the ups and downs life can throw our way. Most of us have probably viewed the pandemic with a certain detachment but, as soon as it moves too close for comfort, we are forced to change our assessment and perspective.

I am the parent not only of a Covid victim but of a so-called “long-hauler” who has been plagued by it for several months. My son didn’t just brush it off with mild symptoms but lived through hospitalization, pneumonia and confinement to a ventilator and somehow came out the other end.  To make matters worse, He had just survived treatment for a lymph cancer that is going to be with him for the rest of his days and had a fine collection of co-morbidities to exacerbate the effects of the virus. Now, many weeks into convalescence, he still wakes in a sweat from nightmares about the ventilator.

What is his prognosis? With this new and so insidious viral invader, he is told that the medical profession know painfully little about it or its physical and psychological effects. After the slightest effort he is exhausted and he suffers from breathing issues, tachycardia, fevers, migraines and ‘brain fog.’ These might be with him for months or years and, in the meantime, he cannot even have booster chemo treatments for his cancer because he keeps testing positive for Covid. We do as much as we can for him, delivering food and medication, giving him pep talks online, but cannot even give him a re-assuring hug.

His nightmare and our helpless anxiety for him are just one more sad story about the virus that has left so many dead, scarred, unemployed, financially ruined or just plain scared and depressed in its sinister wake.

Alan Yates
PNA Member, Ottawa