Monday, May 29, 2023

It was just a year ago… On March 12, 2020… A survivor’s story…

By Tiziano Thomas Dossena [From]

It was a year ago that I left my work at the end of my shift with an injured shoulder… The day after, I went to see an acupuncturist to relieve my pain. When I returned home from the doctor, I felt exhausted and went to rest. I woke up a couple of hours after that with a high fever… It was right then that my life changed… I could not have fathomed what the next months ahead would bring and that my life, and the lives of all the people around me were going to be changed forever.

The suspect that Covid19 could have been the cause of my fever was there, so from that moment I stayed in isolation in my bedroom. I was lucky I had a bathroom next to what became my quarantine room and no one else needed to use it, since we had a full bath on the lower level of the house. Soon the fever was lower but constant, and a slight cough persisted. Being that I was in bed most of the day, I believed that the sharp pain I felt in my back was due to lack of proper movement until I realized that it didn’t matter how and if I moved: the pain was not leaving me.

My daughter brought me to the emergency room in the Bronx on the 14th, and the situation in the hospital was chaotic. They saw me and determined that I probably had the flu… Strike One. They had no way to test me. I went home discouraged and distraught that I was causing so much mayhem to my family.

At that point, I slept more during the day than at night, with the pain in my shoulder being only one of the many symptoms. I forgot altogether that I had injured myself, and my breathing started to be a little unpredictable…

On the 15th, my daughter arranged for me to see a doctor at Stamford Hospital and to get tested. The doctor determined that I probably had the flu. Strike two… They let me go home…

I waited patiently at home for a result of the test, to no avail. On the 17th, my daughter, ever a loving veterinarian, auscultated my chest and determined there was fluid in my lungs. She brought me back to Stamford Hospital, where they admitted me with pneumonia and the presumption that I had Covid19. I finally was tested for the virus.

The isolation room in the hospital was comfortable and had a marvelous view. The food was excellent; one could order from a menu and it would have felt like a vacation, other than I felt horrible and someone kept on injecting my chest with an anticoagulant… Being alone did not help. I had with me my tablet and received many calls via Messenger, Whatsup, and Facetime. If I didn’t know better I would have taught that I had become popular… Kidding apart, the contact with the outside world through those calls gave me strength beyond any medications or nourishment. I really was lucky. Both my family and friends kept in touch, Calls arrived from NYC, Florida, and Italy…The disease, even though not confirmed yet by any testing results, was definitely triggered by the infamous virus that was becoming a pandemic…

My health improved. My body was fighting it out with the virus and was winning… After five days of hospitalization I was tested again, and then released. I was feeling a little better by now, even though the pain in the back and the shoulder was still strong and the cough persisted. One unusual item was that I had not lost either my capability to taste food or my appetite. Then again, I had not lost my appetite even twenty years before when I was fighting cancer and dealing with chemotherapy and radiation therapy…

So, here I was, quarantined in my own bedroom, fearful of infecting my loved ones and wondering whether my world had gone crazy. Is this how the people who had to deal with pandemics or epidemic situations of the past lived their lives? No, I was lucky. I had a TV in my room, plenty of stuff to read, a laptop computer to use and much appetite (yes, as I said, that never really subsided). I don’t believe that people in the past had all these luxuries while in the midst of the Spanish flu or the plague… Most of all, though, I had people who cared, who loved me and feared for my life, who kept me from letting my fears take over…

Yes, I was lucky, but we all wanted to confirm that what had happened to me was what I, my family and the doctors suspected. The results of the two previous tests, though, were not available yet. Strike three.

By the 30th of March, my daughter was able to arrange for me to get tested again, this time in Westchester. We drove there. I had double-masked and wore gloves and prayed that this was not going to be the cause of contagion for my daughter, who had sacrificed the last twenty days to assist my wife with my care. The procedure was smooth and two days after the results confirmed that I was positive for Covid19. I should say ‘still positive’, but at that point, only one result was available and did not know what happened to the previous tests.

I stayed in isolation for the next fifteen days, always harboring the fear of contagion to others. I realize now the psychological stress and the type of work it involved for my wife and my daughter to keep me from spreading the disease to the rest of the house… By the following week the first two results finally arrived and confirmed our suspects. Wow, thank God I did not rely on those tests to know whether I was infected or not! The brain remained foggy and the pains were still there, and it took another couple of months before they faded away, although at times sharp pains to the chest still come uninvited even today, after a year, as a reminder of what was.

Yes, it was a year ago… I still feel pains in my right shoulder, but it has been determined that it was a tear in the ligament and not Covid19 that caused that. I guess it will never go away completely, an eerie souvenir of that period, unrelated to Covid19, but still tied to it as a memory. I also cannot hear the music theme of NCIS without a flutter to the heart since I had the opportunity to watch all the old episodes on TV in my room during my isolation.

Yeah, and my daughter’s dog, Bunny, now follows me everywhere, and I mean everywhere. She was not allowed to enter my room for over two months and it must have caused a trauma of sorts that triggered what is now an anxiety issue tied to my presence, or lack of. It’s amazing to see how sensitive animals are to their environment. It is almost funny to see her follow every step I take with a serious expression, always making sure that I do not leave the room without her…

The difficult part of having lived this nefarious event it’s not having been sick or isolated, being in fear of getting other people sick or even maybe dying. The difficult part to accept is that the world is not the same anymore… More than half a million people died of this disease. A nation as mighty as the USA was placed on its knees by a virus and our lives have changed, and not for the better. We are not at peace. We live in a sci-fi movie atmosphere, walking around wearing masks, fearing each other‘s closeness, and hiding back in our houses as soon as we can. Even worse than that, we are now divided as a nation.  Yes, divided. I am not going to pass a judgment on who is responsible and how this situation was triggered. So much has already been said by so many…

All I know, for sure, is that divided we don’t stand, we fall.

And yes, it was just a year ago…

Tiziano Thomas Dossena
Tiziano Thomas Dossena
Tiziano Thomas Dossena is the Editorial Director of L’Idea Magazine. He is the author of “Caro Fantozzi” (2008), “Dona Flor, An Opera by van Westerhout” (2010), "Sunny Days and Sleepless Nights" (2016), "The World as an Impression: The Landscapes of Emilio Giuseppe Dossena" (2020), and "Federico Tosti, Poeta Antiregime" (2021). Dossena is the editor of A Feast of Narrative anthology series and co-editor of Rediscovered Operas Series books on librettos.

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