Tag Archive: Coronavirus


Watching Chris Cuomo last night work through his Coronavirus diagnosis and displaying his chest x-ray was amazing. In some ways, Cuomo became a folk hero of sorts, battling adversity to keep the public informed and outlining his self-quarantine modeling. However well-intentioned he was, Cuomo’s bravado perpetuates an ongoing problem: to stay employed, you must work through illness.

My company issued an internal employee policy that provides an additional amount of time off for COVID-19 recovery. All that’s required is the willingness to ‘self-disclose.’ They created a self-disclosure button in the HR portal. It’s easy. Click that ‘self-reporting’ button, enter the information, and submit. 

In my world, any 60-year-old would likely not choose to self-report. For those in my age bracket, self-reporting It’s just another opportunity to eviscerate yourself to the sidelines, an exit to unemployment.

My Parkinson’s was diagnosed 45 days ago. Feels like a 1,000. I spent the first two weeks in a fog-just reading anything possible about Parkinson’s. Not usually a movie star biography reader, I read every word of Michael J. Fox’s autobiography in two days. However, outside of my doctor and case manager, I haven’t told a soul.

I experienced two weeks of reflection, then Coronavirus exploded. It feels 9,000 miles an hour since. Good or bad, there’s been no time to think about Parkinson’s. Neither have I thought of my normal daily position, the pain of dealing with loss, nor coping with demanding people who filter in and out of everyday life. What living with Parkinson’s has allowed me to d is notice something important. Just like pre-COVID, some days are good, some days are bad. Some days, the tremors were noticeable. Other days, it wasn’t. For four days, no Parkinson’s symptoms. Today? Bam. Back with a vengeance. No matter what I did, tremors rumbled. 

Like Tom Hanks’ character in Cast Away talking to Wilson (a volleyball), I sometimes find myself talking to Parkinson’s as if it were real.

God damn it. Not today. I have too much shit going on to deal with you.”

I am unfamiliar with this new world. I am lost. So, I read of a blogger who suggested I find celebrities living with Parkinson’s. My first search found Michael J. Fox, Muhammad Ali, Janet Reno, Charles Schulz, Linda Ronstadt, Johnny Isakson, and Billy Graham. Not that their stories aren’t compelling, it’s just that only three remain alive.

Another interesting thought about post-Parkinson’s diagnosis is cadence. The rhythm of 5 AM, 1 PM, and 9 PM Carbidopa/Levodopa ensures interrupted sleep. And even then, I sometimes wake at 2:00 AM, stiff. Afterwhich, I stumble to the recliner with the best intention of meditating, only to promptly fall asleep. I often wake exhausted.

Unlike Chris Cuomo, I will not publicly announce either Parkinson’s or COVID. I will never click that ‘self-report’ button. Sure, it’s probably the right thing to do, for both coworkers and me. But if I were working from home (being a member of the 55+ club), I’d likely mark my door with blood, keep working remote, and hope for a passover by the God of COVID.

The impulse to work through an illness is crushing, especially now, when workers with truly essential jobs face pressure to do likewise. In my career, I’ve never received a message saying, ‘You’re so important, we have to make sure you take care of yourself and your loved ones.’ Not once. Rather, my career was filled the mantra that devotion to retaining a job, meant personal sacrifice, for the workplace was the ultimate value.

As Joanna Wiess noted, “The impulse to prove an uncommon work ethic isn’t limited to pandemics. It’s on display when Elon Musk brags about working 120 hours a week, or when a high-powered female executive goes back to work within days or weeks of delivering a baby.

I don’t like it. But’s that’s where America is. 

It’s not some mythical inner spirit that helps me overcome an encroaching disease. It’s neither a Buddhist nor Christian philosophy. There’s not even a personal mission to the greater glory. For me, it’s the ‘stupid philosophy’ that allows me to retain employment. With over 10 million unemployment claims over the past several weeks, that’s important.

I don’t like it. I don’t want to have to work through the pain, but that’s where many of us are.

Exhaustion

Friday, April 3, I briefly stood at the clock mounted above the door. 5:32 PM. “I’m exhausted,” muttered a passing coworker. “Let’s get out of here.”

I stared—5:33 PM.

My day some 34 hours earlier. I walked in, and the crisis swarmed the room. Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) was required in New York, then New Jersey, then New Orleans, then all over. Ventilators were in such high demand that a coworker said she’d sell her soul to the devil.

“Think about that,” I said matter of factly.

“I did,” she muttered.

As she finished, our alliance of State Pharmacies indicated medicines to alleviate breathing difficulty, relieve pain, and sedate coronavirus patients were in high demand. That meant stock was depleting.
Compound that with President Trump. Trump’s comments pushing an unverified Coronavirus treatment of Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine created shortages. Trump urged the FDA to speed up the off-label use of the drugs for COVID-19 but created hoarding.

“We need supplies,” a New Orleans nurse told us.

“I cannot locate any for you, but I will continue to try,” I spoke into the conference room phone.

An eerie pause, “I have worked four days, sleeping a few hours in my car.”

Another eerie pause. “I cried every day.”

A third eerie pause. Tears of grief briefly filled our conference room speaker. A momentary ruffle, “Pull it together,” she appeared to whisper to herself.

“Ok. Thanks for helping,” she sighed. Click. Dial tone.

I didn’t help at all. All we said was that she and her coworkers stand alone.

Those of us in the room are technically listed as ‘support.’ However, it’s the health care workers who must go out to those in need are paying an even higher price, in terms of their emotional health. They expose themselves to the risk. Work nonstop. They’re unsure if they have Coronavirus. However, they carry on. And I can’t help them. It’s insane.

Driving home, I kept thinking of the two occasions when the United States declared itself to be under attack: Pearl Harbor and 9/11. Coronavirus is the third. While Trump has spent his time bragging about his “terrific” response to the crisis, there’s an uneasy feeling American is on a rudderless ship adrift in high seas. Governor Cuomo once said, “We have to fight with what we have.” To that nurse in New Orleans and others like her, you’re the best we have.

God Bless.

As many noticed, I’ve been off the blog for six days. None of that was intentional. I’ve been working 12-hour days on a Coronavirus task force (team) for a large hospital. Having pandemic planning experience, executive management thought I would be a fantastic addition.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy what I do. I love working in the healthcare field, mainly the technology arena. So, working under tight restraints, compressed timelines, and a lot of moving pieces, you have to be able to deliver. 

The first day was not an overt shocker – I’ve seen it before. It’s often repeated. However, if you want to understand why the Trump Administration and others are so whacked out, read my first ten minutes of being on my company’s Coronavirus Task Force.

“Hey, welcome to the team. Your experience will be invaluable.”

“Great. Glad to join the team. So, what’s the plan?”

“The plan?” he quizzically asked.

“Well yeah. The plan?” I affirmed.

“You mean the Pandemic Plan?”

“Yes. The Pandemic Plan and our next steps,” as I sat.

“Sure. Carol? Please forward a copy of the quote, plan, end quote.”

Flipping through the first ten pages, I looked up. “Ah. This is a blank Pandemic Plan downloaded from the Internet.”

“Yup.”

“You’re saying there is no plan?”

“Yup.”

“We have operations in three-quarters of the US states, and we have no Pandemic Plan?”

“Yup. Management mothballed it in 2016, only to dust it off for Coronavirus.”

Idiots are leading idiots, including the President’s claim that hundreds of thousands will get better by going to work; that the virus would magically disappear; that anyone who wants a test can get one; that the flu is worse; a vaccine is just around the corner; and that we are the most prepared country in the world.

Jesus Christ, either 200,000 plus Americans or the Coronavirus will disappear. Someone pass me a Corona.

In the constant battle to stay abreast of the epidemic, I still have to care for aging parents. I also have to care for my employees, ensure medical supplies get shipped to healthcare facilities across the country, beg the government for testing kits, and have to care for myself: the post-tumor treatment with a side order of Parkinson’s. If this seems like a tall order, it is. But it’s no different than any other person.

Each of us has challenges, trials, tribulations, joy, and peace. Congressional physician, Dr. Brian Monahan, stated the virus would hit 70 – 150 million Americans – roughly half the U.S. population. Therein lay a vital lesson: Coronavirus lessens for no man. Every hour at my desk, I become more convinced that my parents will die from it. And at 60 years old, having underlying health issues myself, I am likely to be a graph plotline on some statistician’s graph. I accept I will succumb. It’s not if, but rather, when.

If statistics prove true, 3.6% of the infected from Coronavirus will perish. While that average is breathtaking, a particularly brutal, yet often undisclosed, statistics indicate 8% over age 60 who get infected will die. In the U.S. alone, the median elderly population above sixty nears 60 million. if true, 2,000,000 older Americans are likely to perish. When thinking of Coronavirus under those terms, Parkinson’s means little. Aches, pains, tremors, and lack of sleep loses perspective. My goal, if there is one, is to try and help as many as possible.

Tossing aside the notion that Democrats went to Wuhan, China, and started the epidemic, President Trump put on a serious face and addressed the nation. He didn’t discuss the lack of testing available for healthcare clinicians. He didn’t explain his repulsion for medical experts. Neither did he consider informing us why his administration cut the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funding nor his bumbling response to the disease’s spread.

In a time of crisis, when Americans required a president, Trump’s dystopian viewpoint was clear: “Sucks to be you.” 

As the rhythms of life close, he offered no guidance, no policy, no answers. The Trump team seems best suited to answer one question: How can I make this pandemic worse? In his speech, Trump pleaded for an end to finger-pointing, only later to say this was a foreign disease. Just two days prior, Trump retweeted a quote from conservative activist Charlie Kirk. Kirk, who is the founder and president of the conservative student group Turning Point USA, tweeted that the U.S. needs a wall on its southern border to protect the country from Coronavirus.

As we enter the weekend, American’s witnessed the NCAA canceled basketball tournaments; the stock market plunged; an outcry was heard from Europe; Broadway was silenced; the hiatus of the NBA, MLB, NHL followed by a shitload of school closings. 

As most Americans work, personal issues take a backseat. We march on. We always do. For me, my focus remains attuned to the needs of healthcare facilities across the country. How can I serve? How can I make someone’s day a little better?

Why goes back to China – not to the days of Kung Fu, where Shaolin Priests walked in harmony with nature. Instead, go to Wuhan. If you do, you’ll find my reason. Death.

The reason Wuhan, China, experienced so much death was for lack of resources. There were only 110 critical care beds in the three designated hospitals. In Italy, the Coronavirus overwhelmed the country’s health system, particularly in the north. More than 80 percent of the hospital beds in Lombardy, the hardest-hit province, is being occupied by Coronavirus patients. 

The U.S. is likely to experience the same fate. In the U.S., our entire medical system has approximately 200,000 hospital beds. Much of our U.S. healthcare system is pretty streamlined. So, an excessive increase in patients will rapidly strain resources. It’s estimated that we have about 100,000 intensive care unit beds in the United States. In a moderate outbreak, about 200,000 Americans would need one. If the Coronavirus closely followed the Spanish flu outbreak (1918), we would need more than 740,000 ventilators. We have roughly 62,000 full-featured ventilators on hand. 

Trump is right. “Sucks to be us.”

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