Wear a Mask

My 25th birthday. My then-husband’s wrists started curling in on a birthday trip to Wine Country. Said he had pain in them as if “he’d been working in the yard”. Since we’d just purchased our first house and had been digging in the backyard, it didn’t seem out of the ordinary.

We came home a few days later and he was still having pain, but it had spread through to his shoulders. No other symptoms, just a bit of pain. He went to our GP and got checked out. Given some extra strength Tylenol. Came home. No improvement. Another week went by, out of meds. Now it’s kinda bothering his neck, but maybe that’s just because his arms hurt.

But nonetheless, ever the Nervous Nelly wife, I made him an appointment at the Orthopedic doc. They took him through a series of tests over a week or so. Finally, just said, “Not sure, maybe a neurologist would know.”. So we did that. After three more weeks, we still had very little answers.

Then on the morning of April 4th, around 3:00 a.m. in the morning, I remember a phrase I won’t soon forget: “Babe. I cannot move.” My husband was paralyzed from the neck down. I called an ambulance, we went to our local E.R. where we spent another 27 hours waiting to hear, “We are going downtown”. Another ambulance, 6 weeks in a neurological unit, hundreds of thousands of dollars in doctors, tests, equipment, surgeries and therapy….”Transverse Encephalomyelitis”. It’s a mouthful – but it’s a cousin to another pandemic we saw once,  Polio.

18 more months of therapy, three more surgeries, countless trips downtown, more physical, mental and financial stress. And a man who was running daily and at the top of his health when all of this started –  now was barely making it on a walker, had a 24-hour medicine delivery system, and was mentally changed by the chemicals that had to keep him alive. He was the shell of a person he once was. Our marriage fell apart.

Started by….the flu. Influenza. The flu had settled in his spine. You know “the flu” that everyone keeps calling “the same as” Covid. “the flu” that no one seems to be afraid of at all 99.99999% of the time. The flu that I’m not afraid of despite the journey it took us on.

So I wear a mask, because now you just took a decade of my life and put a germ on steroids and it’s taking lives of tens of thousands. I’ve already been on this journey. I’ve already traversed what this could look like.  The odds of my story happening again? I could win the lottery twice over before it were to repeat. The chance of me getting Covid if I don’t wear a mask and you have it? 5%. My entire world is math. Imagine how I must feel.


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