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  • Writer's picturePeggy Spear

The October We All Had COVID

In October, we almost killed Grandma Not intentionally, of course. Things just kind of happened.

On her first night visiting, on her way to bed, she tripped over one of our enthusiastic but ill-behaved dogs. I don’t know which one, but the result was my 93-year-ol mom took a tumble in our dining room. There was a lot of confusion, barking and blood. Not good, and we ended up at John Muir Medical Center’s emergency department. At 3:30 a.m. we arrived home, my mom with a fractured elbow and three staples in a nasty gash in her head.

Okay, that’s bad enough, but here’s where our story truly begins. My youngest son Mick, a recent college graduate who lives with us, was accidentally exposed to someone who didn’t know they were contagious with COVID-19. The Sunday morning after my mom’s accident, he began experiencing a sore throat, chills and a fever. We confined him to his room and a test the next day confirmed it. He had COVID, and we had all been exposed – even Grandma, who also suffers from COPD. We immediately got tested as well, and the tests came back negative. But by Wednesday of that week, we were all exhibiting symptoms of illness. We went in four days after our initial test and it was confirmed: the household had COVID.

The most interesting thing was how the virus presented itself: my son and I had bad flus, while my husband just got a head cold. Grandma’s COVID masqueraded as a bad sinus infection, with little respitory issues. None of us lost our taste or smell.

Meanwhile, my daughter had a mild case in June, and came over from her home in Petaluma to care for us. She never relapsed – those antibodies were going strong.

I felt terrible for five days, then began to feel a bit better each day. After 14 days of isolation, my doctors told me I was no longer contagious. But I wasn’t “well,” and now, a month later, I still feel unusually fatigued. But the hero in all this was my mom, who basically kicked COVID's ass.

We were lucky. All of my immediate family and their significant others survived the virus. But as of today, there are over 255,000 people who have died of the disease. To put that in perspective, let me share with you some statistics compiled by the Washington Post:

  • More than 58,000 Americans were killed during the decade-plus of involvement in the Vietnam War. So the pandemic’s fatalities represent four Vietnam Wars since February.

  • During the Korean War, nearly 37,000 Americans were lost; covid-19 has claimed nearly seven times more.

  • During World War II, the country mourned 405,000 members of the “Greatest Generation.” The pandemic has taken nearly two-thirds as many people, a lot of them old enough to remember the fight against the Nazis and the Japanese.

  • And World War I? 116,000 U.S. dead in two years of fighting. The pandemic has more than doubled that number in a fraction of the time.

  • What about our deadliest conflict, the Civil War? Death toll estimates range from 600,000 to 850,000. Even at the high end of that range, the pandemic has permanently taken nearly 30 percent as many family members from Thanksgiving tables.

  • On Sept. 11, 2001, almost 3,000 people were killed in terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Shanksville, Pa.

  • The deadliest day of the pandemic so far — Sept. 18 — surpassed that, at 3,660 deaths. [Last] Wednesday, as the virus surged across the country, the daily death toll had risen again to 1,894. Public health officials fear that by the end of this month, the United States could lose more people per day from the pandemic than the 2,403 Americans killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

Look at those statistics, and cringe. I did. This virus is insidious and dangerous. Just weeks before my family’s illness, a neighbor – who used to play his saxophone in the garage during summer nights to cheer us up – died of the disease.

Yes, my family was lucky. And Caucasian. A disproportionate number of lives the virus has claimed have been black or Hispanic. Scientists and top physicians are studying that now.

But so many lives could have been saved by strong national leadership that acknowledged the simple wearing of a mask could make a difference. It’s mind-boggling how Donald Trump, as president, refused to listen to the best doctors and infectious disease experts in the world, and in doing so mobilized a veritable army of anti-maskers and super-spreaders.

Our family tried to do everything right. We still do. We wear masks, wash our hands and sterilize surfaces – although my phone could use some attention. And yes, we are carrying precious antibodies that we are betting will keep us safe until we can be vaccinated. But for those who have not had the virus, don’t tempt fate.

My mom, Pat Spear, is still with us today, and will be celebrating her 93rd Thanksgiving. She’s lived through the Great Depression, wars, becoming a widow at 36 with four small children, creating a stellar career as an educator, falling in love again at 89 and losing him last year, and now COVID. And she still has a sense of humor and hope.

I have so much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving, despite the setbacks 2020 has brought.

May you all find your silver linings and Pat Spear-kickass attitude this holiday season, and just love your family and friends. And Dr. Fauci.

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