Pneumonia Almost Killed Me. As COVID Restrictions Ease, I Fear for My Life.

Five years ago, I was struck with a severe case of double-lung pneumonia. My body was swollen with poison and I lost my ability to breathe. I was placed on a ventilator for several days. I was almost dead after two weeks in the ICU.

My lungs are still damaged after the incident. I have to confront stairways like Ernest Shackleton did with the Antarctic tundra. Yes, I can do it. But God DAMN. I can’t breathe well on a good day, and as a number of medical professionals have warned me, catching COVID will not be a good day. Regardless of how vaccinated or not, the rise in vaxing COVID variants has cost me my ticket to the party. A “mild case” is not on my Bingo card even with every shot done; if I hit the jackpot, it will likely be for every coin in the box.

Two reasons are why I am telling you this. First, because I have been writing about COVID since 2002, you deserve my unique perspective. I have tried hard to avoid cynicism in my reporting, even though it has been difficult for me to face the harsh realities of my situation. I believe that I succeeded. Fortunately, there were excellent editors to ensure that it happened. I have written with enthusiasm and even gusto about good COVID news. There just hasn’t been very much good news, is all.

Friends, my objectivity, in short, is sound. There is a lot of good news at the moment. As the weather warms, the Delta and Omicron crushes of new infections are visible to be decreasing. articles about the great days to comeThey are popping up in the snow like spring crocuses. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that; for millions, thanks to the vaccinations and the better-late-than-never availability of testing, life IsI will get better. IDay 733 is the day worst bingo game in human history, and it’s becoming clear that the way most of us have lived over these two years, if we can be said to have lived responsibly, will someday transform into a version of “normal” that can be tolerated, if not embraced. The need for it is in the air like pollen, and every time the sun emerges from clouds — even these dingy, chilly March clouds — you can feel people’s souls turn toward it like tiny flowers toward the light.

However, no matter what the new norm turns out to be it will do its own thing without me.

I’m not saying this so I can keep you all down here in Grumpyville with me. I’m saying it because there are millions of us in this place — particularly vulnerable to the virus — and the virus has not gone away.

There are nearly three million refugees fleeing the slaughterhouse of Ukraine crowded into shelters, under bombed bridges, and COVID. has never seen such fertile ground.

New variants are already in development. a surge of cases in EuropeAnd prompting another mass lockdown in China. This is due the rise of a subvariant of Omicron currently called BA.2 and will eventually earn its Greek letter. Scientists are calling it the “stealth variant” because it is difficult to detect and appears be more virulent than prior strains. This is not predictive of anything, but this story has been told many times before.

There are over 238,000 new COVID cases in the United States every week, and more than 8,400 deaths each year. That is not “over” by even the most reckless definition of the word.

During this time, the House of Representatives just dumped a $15 billion COVID packageThe $1.5 trillion spending bill is yet another appalling act mortal short-sightedness. The political will wasn’t there, you see, what with the war and all … and never mind that a COVID outbreak might just be the next gruesome chapter of that war.

Despite the fact that many people have taken the pandemic seriously there has been enough indifference and disregard among the government and the population to create a gravity well we have yet to escape.

“I hope I’m wrong this time,” immunologist and professor at Georgetown University Medical Center’s Department of Medicine Dr. Mark Dybul told Deseret News, “but I think by March, April, May, we will have a fully vaccine-resistant variant. There’s simply no way you can have such low rates of vaccination around the world with the virus ping-ponging between vaccinated and unvaccinated people. I’m an immunologist. The probability of us seeing a vaccine-resistant strain is very high.”

But hey, maybe I’m wrong. I hope I am; I don’t want you stuck here with me. I don’t want my daughter stuck here with me; her bedtime story last night was “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” and it almost undid me. I hope and believe that science will eventually catch up to the virus and that most people will be able crawl, stand, walk, and run towards every happy post-COVID fantasy. As a spectator, it will remain my favorite show.

… and I guess that’s the other reason I’m talking about all this. If that day does come, do me a favor: Don’t forget about us. There are millions like me — people who are immunocompromised due to cancer or heart disease, people who are damaged as I was the last time pneumonia tapped me on the shoulder, people who for whatever medical reasons will not be free to frolic when this nightmare turns into fuzzy bees and kitten buttons for everyone else.

It’s a bad beat, and nothing for it. I have been there. slapping myself with D.H. Lawrence while reciting the wisdom of Dr. Seuss — “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” — for many months now as the reality of this has sunk in good and deep.

Don’t forget about us when someone starts talking about “the end of COVID.” Over in this corner, there is no such thing.

Seuss was right, though: It happened. All the good times that I took for granted 734-days ago, it happened. I was there. All of it is still fresh in my mind. This will do for me and others like me for the moment.