Thursday, November 26, 2020

Autism Answer: I'm Thankful My Best Friend Is (Still) Alive


I'm thankful for my best friend. And I'm thankful she's still alive.
My best friend and her husband were hospitalized and fighting for their lives this past summer. COVID-19 positive and in the ICU (one blessing, they were together) they were in pain, struggling to breathe, and having intense conversations about their possible death: What should we do for the kids before we die? Why have we not told them so many of the things they need to know? Not so much about our love for them (my friend and her husband talk openly and often with their children about their love) but about logistics and specifics and what to do with unfinished business. 
My friend is a nurse and until that time I hadn't really thought about the part of her job that puts herself and her family at risk for the health of others. I mean, I had sort of thought about it, but I hadn't felt about it.
While they were fighting to breathe I was thinking and feeling about it.
And after they were permitted to go home, doing better and no longer contagious but still needing oxygen machines and working at getting stronger without pushing too hard, I visited and we talked and talked about it. And about why it is worth it to her. (We also talked about fun light hearted stuff, laughed a lot, ate fun foods, and danced in her living room to our favorite playlists. After all, we believe in a holistic healing approach.)
First responders and health professionals are walking into danger in order to help us out of it. This we all know, but it is worth it to take time to feel it too. 
And to listen to them when they take a moment to tell us what we might be able to do to help them.
When I talk now with my friend she just wishes we would be willing to gather in small groups and wear masks when we go out. She knows it's not fun, but she and her coworkers are exhausted, forced consistently to turn people away when they're sick (there are not enough nurses and doctors, and there's not enough space in her hospital) and they are getting sick themselves, so are their loved ones. 
At the moment my friend's mom and sister and niece are all COVID-19 positive. They can't taste things, they're aching and sick and have a hard time moving around, but they're doing alright. No need for the hospital. It's been a couple of weeks and though they are barely better they are not worse, and that's a big thing. My friend's mom works with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 yet refused to wear a mask so it's likely that's where the illness spread from. But, of course, it could have been so many other sources. 
And this morning, around two in the morning, my friend got a text from her son - "sorry mom I can't make it to the house for Thanksgiving because I have a fever and I feel sick." My friend called to talk with me about it on her way to work where she offered to pull half a shift because they need nurses. They are always needing more nurses now. More people to walk into the risks in hopes that they can bring us out. 
She offered to do only half a shift because her husband will be home today. He's rarely home, though they don't complain about that. He was at risk of losing his work when this pandemic started but then after he had COVID-19 and didn't fully recover it was an absolute. Luckily, he found work in trucking and - though he is rarely home and making far less money - he knows to be grateful. In fact, their youngest son is still unable to find work. He was doing welding work (on pipelines, I think?) but he's been without work for over six months now and has not given up actively looking. He's had a great attitude, and that's awesome, but he still doesn't have a job. 
Now my friend is going to chat with her husband about keeping everyone away from their home this Thanksgiving. You see, her son is sick with COVID-19 symptoms and he lives with his brother. Who had a visit with their other brother just yesterday. Soooooo.... all the boys have been in contact with each other and though it is quite possibly just a flu or other illness, they are aware it also might be COVID-19. And my friend is uncertain whether she and her husband still have the antibodies, so she wants to be extra careful. Even though asking her kids to not come over for Thanksgiving sucks and hurts her heart and is unfair to her husband who rarely sees them. Even so, that's where she's leaning. Just in case it isn't just a flu.
A problem with COVID-19 is if you do contract it, experts are still unsure how to help you. If you get the flu they know what to do. You're unlikely to die from the flu if you get help on time and are relatively healthy. But COVID-19 just isn't like that. It's still leaving nurses like my friend and her colleagues feeling impotent and uncertain and, of course, exhausted. They care about their patients and they care about their families and they care about their jobs and they care about their skills in treating illness. They care. 
I'm so thankful for my friend. For what she does at work, for what she does for her family, and for what she does for me. I'm grateful that she shares her work, her family, her time and ideas with me. 
She doesn't ask for much, but she does wish we'd wear our masks and do whatever we can to slow the spread of COVID-19. Smaller gatherings, being willing to shift our traditions to accommodate this new threat, being a brave lone mask wearer, or saying no to invites when we must. She knows it won't stop us from spreading COVID-19 but she also believes it will slow the spread. 
She's just one nurse with one voice. But that voice almost died, has nursed her husband when he almost died, has visited her mother and sister and niece (all geared up in PPE of course) to offer support and check their vitals, is going to talk to her kids about not coming to the house for Thanksgiving because she believes it might make a difference. Oh, and she lost a childhood classmate to COVID-19 just yesterday as well. And that voice talks to me often and with thoughtful candor and grace. 
I love that voice and I will do anything I can to hear it and keep it alive. 
Including sharing that voice with you and giving you my version of her words and ideas. I hope you choose to hear it and help me keep it alive as well. 
P.S. : Thank you for sharing this space with me, friends. And feel free to invite as many others as you want, mask wearers and non-mask wearers alike! It is a neat thing that we can gather here and discuss our ideas without risk of spreading COVID! Of course, spreading ideas has it's own risks and dangers. But, you know, that's an idea worth gathering here to talk about. 😃