Monday, December 20, 2021

What You Stole

 My grandmother died from Covid-19 last Saturday.

The last photo of my grandma
and I, taken at Thanksgiving

She was in a rehab facility when you walked in the door, transmitting Covid-19 to another patient, because you weren't buying the hype about the virus.

The person you gave Covid to transmitted it onto the hands or clothes of a staff member. Because you refused to wear a mask during most of 2020 and 2021, the staff in the facility burned out. They got sick, or quit and there weren't enough of them to ensure proper patient care in the appropriate ratios. Those that were left were too tired to practice effective infection control, and transmitted to 11 other patients, then to my grandma.

When she tested positive, she was free from symptoms. The day she tested positive, I tested as well, as I had seen her just 4 days before. I was negative. My grandma was vaccinated. We were hopeful.

Two days later, her doctor sent her to the hospital because her oxygen levels had dropped and her heart was elevated, but he had a plan. He would treat my grandma with a course of Rendesivir, the same medication that treated the former president when he got Covid last year.

It didn't work.

Because you didn't care how your actions affected others, you forced my my mom to call me on Wednesday and started asking questions about care and treatment, about whether it was better to risk blood clots in my grandma's lungs or bleeding in her intestine. To call on Thursday and say she heard from the nurse that grandma was perking up and things might be well. To call on Friday and say the nurse was worried and should she turn around from a planned trip to see her grandchildren.

Because you couldn't be inconvenienced by wearing a piece of cloth on your face, I had to call United and force Eric to ask them to change my flight because I couldn't make it through the conversation. 

Because you were convinced that even though you are vaccinated for chicken pox, measles, mumps, rubella and hepatitis, somehow the Covid-19 vaccine wasn't good enough for you, I had to text my cousin for a late night ride from the airport in Detroit.

Because of your selfishness, you forced my mom and I into impossible decisions about palliative care, talking to no less than 8 medical professionals in the span of hours on Saturday morning.

Because you couldn't care about others, you forced us into choosing whether to see my grandma for "comfort" on the Covid unit, or keep ourselves safe by not going.

We went.

My grandma was 97 when she died on Saturday night, 10 hours after we made the palliative care decision. You might use that as an excuse, that she was old, and would have had underlying conditions. That’s true, but she told me at Thanksgiving she wanted to make it to 100. You stole 2 years, 3 months and 7 days from her. 

You stole the chance for my grandma to die in her own bed, slipping off to sleep in the comfort of her own apartment.

You stole the dignity of holding hands with loved ones free from the barrier of a double-glove and plastic gowns.

You stole the last kiss I could give her cheek, barred by my face shield and N-95 mask.

You forced us to risk our health the longer we stayed on the Covid unit, surrounded by ill, coughing bodies of all ages. 

You stole the opportunity for last words, as shallow breaths were all she could manage. Because you stole her voice, we didn't understand the last shake of her head meant "I won't be here tomorrow" when we told her we would be back then.

You stole sleep, forcing a late night return to the hospital after we got the call, to gown and glove and mask one final time to do what families do when a loved one dies. You forced me to ask a contract nurse, new to the hospital and unfamiliar with the rules, to help me find lotion to remove rings from my grandmother's cooling fingers while my mother waited in the hall. 

I don't know who the particular "you" is in this story, but...

  • if you refuse to mask in public
  • if you refuse to get vaccinated and continue to be around people 
  • if you scream and rant against public health measures 
  • if you go out when you are sick because "its not that bad" 
  • if you buy into the conspiracy theories
then, it was YOU who killed my grandmother, as surely as if you had blown the virus into her lungs yourself.

And for that, all your arguments and excuses and bloviating about “your rights” are invalid. My grandma died, and murderers don’t get to complain they received corned beef hash and not steak Diane.

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