COVID-19: One Patient's Personal Account on the Effects

Posted on May 01, 2020   |   
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Written by patient and advocate John Torrence

Which way is up? In this new crazy world of Coronavirus, we are being told not to go to work, to stay away from everyone, and just sit at home. Meanwhile, the bills keep coming in the mail.

For me, the world changed while I was on a road trip, 450 miles from home. I had been aware of this new virus in China, but suddenly it took over. The only talk on the TV and online was about this new virus, and the president decided it was the national priority. It is hard to know when the press is making a big deal about a small matter, and there is a long history of them doing it. My initial reaction was that things were overblown, and that we just needed to get on with our work and daily lives.

But then the death count started rising. First oversees, then here in the US. Again, I tried to use my rational mind. People die every day, from smoking, from accidents, from heart attacks, from the flu. When the doctors say that 200 people died today – that is in a country of 328 million people. But the next day, the death count doubles, and doubles again. That is something the flu death rate does not do.

I want to believe I am a young, healthy male, capable of doing a full day's work, climbing mountains, enjoying the physical world. In truth, I am a 61-year-old male, with one lobe of my lung removed due to bronchiectasis, and an eleven-year history of nontuberculous mycobacterial and other miscellaneous pulmonary infections. I use a nebulizer and vibrating vest twice a day to keep my lungs clear, and my pulmonary health is always foremost in my mind. I get tired walking across the street, so let's forget climbing mountains.

The first thing I have to master is that I cannot fully understand the extent of this pandemic. It may be overblown, but it may be real. I will never get the true story watching TV. Guessing wrong could cost me my life. And the lives of those around me. Working and accomplishing goals is what gives me my sense of self and sitting at home reminds me that I am sick and weak. Visiting family and friends reminds me that I am part of a society, that I contribute my share, and that I am valuable. Sitting at home tells me the opposite. And sitting at home does not pay the bills. While the government officials tell me, they are going to offer all kinds of financial support, history tells me that they never come through with their promises. Somehow, as a small, independent business owner, I never qualify for all the goodies the government passes out. My employees depend on me to provide them with work and income as well.

All of this leaves me in quite a state of distress. I cannot do any of the things that give me meaning or purpose. I have watched all the self-help, house repair, and learn-a-new-skill videos I can stand, and I face an unknown future waiting for the world to return to normal.

It's time to take a deep breath. As suggested on a recent COPD webinar, it is better to tune out of the moment-by-moment news broadcasts for now. Concentrate on what I can do. Fix something, call a relative, take a short walk. While I cannot buy into all of the craziness, I do agree that it is worthwhile to add a few steps toward better hygiene – more hand washing, less face touching, less contact with public facilities that might be infected, a little more distance between people for now. Maybe it's overkill, maybe it will keep me alive. Time will tell. Be safe out there.

The COPD Foundation advises that before you make any changes to your medication or therapies that you first consult with your doctor. The COPD Foundation recognizes that everyone’s experience is unique, and this is John’s experience.