The week leading up to the one year anniversary of the shut down of the world brought up many emotions. Reliving all the losses was a hard pill to swallow. All the what ifs. The lost moments. At the same time, there is always a silver lining. I'm alive!
I've said that a lot this year with grateful perplexity, but a year ago today, 3/16/20, I woke up from a nap with a fever that lasted over 15 days. Listening to my doctor’s advice to stay home, my condition worsened. After two weeks battling Covid-19 on my own, I finally went to the hospital after a dear friend and nurse urged me to go in. I had trouble breathing, walking, and had a relentless fever. What I didn’t know was I had double pneumonia, and my liver and kidneys were failing. I spent one entire night packed in ice because I could no longer take Tylenol because my liver numbers were too high. This entire experience shook me to my core. Thankfully, my body started to respond to all the treatment and I was released 7 days later, but I had no idea I would be dealing with side effects for the rest of the year. Looking back at all the events of the shutdown of the world and being hospitalized, I can honestly say, Covid-19 has changed my life.
I beat it. I “recovered,” meaning the fever finally went away, my lungs cleared up and my liver and kidneys healed, but no one prepared me for the side effects. Being that ill, so isolated, when I needed comfort and connection, I’ve never been so scared in my life. I battled depression this year as well. What was I depressed about? Well, besides the world falling apart, I found myself in physical pain throughout the year. Body aches which I called phantom fevers. My body was sensitive to the touch, but no fever. The bedsheets even bothered my legs. It seemed every other day my body would flare up. I suffered memory loss and found myself in a fog, not to mention battling relentless fatigue. Most of my days were spent only half capacity of what I normally could accomplish before I was hit with complete exhaustion.
I found myself mourning who I used to be. I felt less than. I was weak and fragile, in the grip of having no control over what my body was doing. I could only push through the days, weeks, and months with a forced smile. A “fake it, until you make it,” mentality. And that's what I did, but Covid didn't stop me from living. I still pushed through the days. I still got most of my work and tasks done. Some days were easier than others.
January of 2021, I finally had three consecutive days without body aches, and I didn’t have to take naps as much. February was even better with only a few days of aches and fatigue. March has just started, but it's been busy and my body feels it. The phantom fevers have come back at night, but they are not as intense.
This year I found it so challenging to remain hopeful and positive, and I am a pretty positive person. To help get back to some feeling of control over my life I decided to do something for others.
I decided to donate my convalescent plasma to the Red Cross. I donated 5 times and my plasma helped 15 people return home to their families and my platelets helped people fight leukemia.
Donating was the only thing I felt I could control during a time of such uncertainty. It also gave me reflection time. Things could have been so much worse, and when I think about how sick I was and what could have been, it's difficult not to get emotional. I still find it challenging to talk about my experience without getting triggered.
The other factor that truly saved me was my marriage. My lovely wife whom I call, my Porcelain Doll. (I wrote her a love story when we first started dating back in 1987, called The Porcelain Doll and the nickname stuck).
My Porcelain Doll was so patient with me. She was my rock, always reassuring me everything will be okay and my side effects were only temporary. There was no guarantee of this, but those comforting words brought me hope. She saw the change in me. My wife got Covid too, but milder symptoms. She experienced the same side effects as me, but not as severe. Thank God. She knew what I was feeling within my mind and body. She had compassion for me. It is difficult, because if you were to look at me, you’d think I look “normal and healthy”, but that’s not how I feel inside of my body, my skin.
What now? I continue to walk through the days to the best of my abilities. I keep a smile on my face because I am so grateful to still be here. Thankfully, I don’t have to fake it as much these days, and I pray the side effects continue to dissipate. I will continue to donate my convalescent plasma as long as I have the antibodies to help others. I will continue to surround myself with positive people and seek as much joy as I can.
The events of 2020, and not just Covid, but the condition of the planet and our society, has left a void in my heart. Since I was a child, I’ve always found ways to make the life I have always dreamed about. My parents divorced when I was young and there was so much turmoil growing up. I’d often say, as a child, “There is always a way.” Speaking from experience, positive change didn’t happen overnight. No. It took me many years to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel and make the life I knew could exist. To create the family I knew could exist. The thing is, I never gave up. I hung in there. That’s what I’m reminding myself as I struggle through days that are heavy with hopelessness. I keep pressing forward. The world will heal, once again. We can't give up. We must push through this.... and we must work together.
In the meantime, I take life a little slower and that's okay. I'm being more selective about how I spend my time. I've never needed much. I find beauty and comfort in simplicity. And as far as the state of the world, I can only focus on my family right now and continue to enjoy the rest of my time with them. I do not have to take it all on my shoulders. The best way I can make the world a more beautiful place is to take care of my family and continue to foster authentic and caring young people who will eventually make their own families and they will pass it onto their children, and their families. I help make the world better by simply loving my family, helping to make grounded, compassionate and hard working people.
Despite the challenges of 2020, there were many amazing surprises. From the moment I got Covid, friends from across the country began prayer groups. Friends I haven't heard from in years, even from my high school days reached out to me. Word spread like wildfire. That simple act of kindness truly kept my spirits up when I felt so alone and scared in my hospital room. So many people took care of us. Friends would drop off food, supplies, notes, and baked goods. We really felt supported by our tribe. Our daughter graduated high school and is now a freshman in college. Our son made his TV debut on the Adam Sandler Netflix movie, Hubie Halloween, and he recently turned 21. I booked a gig for Braun thermometers back in the fall and won a full scholarship (Thanks again, Jeff Arch!) to attend a writing Summit, and I even was the officiant for a wedding at the conference. My wife and I still directed our drama club and choral programs, giving students a safe and much needed distraction from this challenging school year. We still did our best to continue to work and inspire, and be inspired by the perseverance of these young people that we work with. And today, March 16th, 2021 (the day I got Covid a year ago) I am filming a commercial for Sam Adams portraying a medical worker. Talk about serendipity.
It's pretty simple. It all boils down to love. I say, love authentically and risk to be truthful through every door you walk through. The world and our communities need more love. More authenticity. More patience. More connection. I've learned so much this year and I don't intend to waste it. We've all been in quarantine, and it was difficult, but the journey is still about connection. We must always remember THERE'S ALWAYS A WAY. There is always someone who will not give up. We can never forget that.