Why I’m more concerned about COVID now than at the beginning of the pandemic

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In short, because people are becoming complacent.  People are not abiding by lockdown rules.  People are refusing to wear masks, refusing to get vaccinated, refusing to social distance. People are protesting because they no longer believe that COVID is dangerous, or even if it is, they are ready to take their chances.

Best of all, most people think that COVID only kills the old and the sick, and they’re OK with that.

This is been the most upsetting thing about the pandemic to me, that most people don’t care what happens to others. Only themselves.  They believe that its OK for old people do die a few years sooner than they otherwise would. And the sick people? Well, they’re sick anyway, right? 

None of the people I have spoken to have either realised or acknowledged that I am one of the people who would likely have a severe course if I contracted COVID. 

It’s my problem, not theirs.

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I should stay locked down if I’m worried, why should society protect people like me?

I was having blood drawn the other day and I know the tech quite well, I go there often and we often chat. She told me how sick she was of this covid bullshit.  She’s tired of wearing masks. She said it was time to open up and if a few old people and a few sick people died, then so be it. That they could lockdown if they wanted.  She was over it!

She had my medical history in front of her. She knows I’m immunocompromised and on the high-risk list.  She said it anyway.

One of my friends said almost the exact same thing a few weeks ago.  I joked “so you’re cool if I die then?”

She stared at me blankly, not understanding what I was saying. Not understanding that I am high risk because my illnesses are REAL.  They aren’t just abstract things or something I make Instagram posts about.  My illness is REAL.  I am HIGH RISK in terms of dying from COVID. 

This is what I mean when I say people don’t believe me.  It’s not that they challenge me or consciously disbelieve me, they just don’t absorb any meaning in what I’m telling them.  They hear me say I am sick, they hear disease names, they hear symptoms, they hear pain.  The hear it but they don’t comprehend it. There is no meaning in those words for them.  They don’t register the consequences of being sick, what it does to me, how it affects my life.  They don’t care enough about me to follow those thought processes through to their natural conclusion. They are too busy thinking about the next thing they want to tell me.  About themselves.

Years ago, before I became disabled, I had a friend whose child had type 1 diabetes. I didn’t’ know anything about diabetes, so I asked her if she would mind talking about it, teaching me.  She was thrilled that anyone took an interest. I didn’t understand her happiness then, I do now. 

She taught me, and in time, she left her daughter with me, so that she could get a break.  Mothering a young child with type 1 diabetes is hard work.  She always felt on guard, needing to be there to protect her daughter, watch for signs of hypers or hypos.  Be there in case anything went wrong.

Because she had no family in town, she didn’t have anyone she could leave her daughter with, she never got a break.  I learned about the disease, and what to do if her blood sugar levels were too high or too low.  I proved I could be trusted, I didn’t mind being “tested”.  I felt it was a compliment when she trusted me to watch her daughter for an hour, so she could do the shopping alone.  I felt quite honoured to have that trust.

I earned that trust though. I learned about carbohydrate metabolism, how to count carbs and calculate the necessary units of insulin.  I learned about insulin boluses, and what to do if she was hyper or hypo glycemic.  Ofcourse, I have forgotten all those things now, more than fifteen years later, but I could learn them again without much trouble.

I wish I had just one friend who was as interested in my accessibility needs or even just understood my pain levels. 

Not gonna happen. Not that kind of world.

Back to COVID.

That’s the level of interest the average person has in sick, disabled people. If my friends and family have zero interest, what would I expect from the wide community?  Zero care factor.

I’ve thought a lot about the reasons why.  And there are a few.

  1. 1) Everyone thinks it won’t happen to them. The risk of severe COVID is so low and even if they DID catch it, they ‘know’ they could fight it off.  They’d recover. They’d be fine. Its just a bad cold, really.
  2. 2) They have NO experience of their body letting them down. Of being vulnerable. Of being hospitalised.  Of being sick.  No frame of reference. Its an abstract idea, so it makes no impression, causes no fear.
  3. 3) They think ‘long COVID’ is a myth. That only a ‘certain kind of person’ as my friend put it, gets long COVID. What they meant is that only malingerers get long COVID. That these people are exaggerating and attention seeking.  They woudn’t do that, so they can’t get long COVID.
  4. 4) They think doctors and nurses will fight valiantly to save them if they do, in fact, get very sick.  They call doctors and nurses ‘heroes’.  They don’t understand that they are just ordinary people, doing a job.  Doctors and nurses are exhausted.  They do what they can, but its not like on Grey’s Anatomy where a team of doctors works tirelessly to save one patient.  You’re lucky if you see a doctor for two minutes a day if you’re in hospital.  If you get COVID, they’ll follow the treatment protocols and you’ll survive or you won’t. Nothing heroic is going to happen. 
  5. 5) They think that all doctors are infallible.  I have been misdiagnosed, given the wrong treatment, given NO treatment, given treatments that made me worse, had treatments withheld that almost cost me my life, all because doctors made mistakes. Doctors weren’t paying full attention.  Doctors didn’t care enough to get it right.  Doctors were lazy or just plain incompetent.  Didn’t read my file. Didn’t listen to my history.  See above – doctors are just people doing a job. Some do it well, some not so much.  And when doctors don’t do their job well, people die. 
  6. 6) They have never faced their own mortality. They’ve never lain in a hospital bed knowing they might never leave that bed again.  Dying is an abstract idea, they’ve never looked it in the eye.  As a disabled person I have almost died a few times, and twice that was the direct result of a doctor’s negligence. Its NOT uncommon, it happens all the time.  Medical error is the third leading cause of death in the US.  Yes, really.  Hospital is NOT a safe place where they fight to keep you alive.  Its just not.
  7. 7) They’ve never been really sick. They don’t know how it feels when their body is so weak they can’t stand, can’t eat, can barely breathe.  Their bodies have never felt vulnerable. Their bodies have always recovered quickly from minor illness. They have no frame of reference for serious illness.  They can’t imagine it, its not real to them, and so they don’t fear it. 

8) They think doctors can fix everything. Modern medicine can do a lot, but there’s also a whole lot more that doctors can do nothing to even help, let alone fix. Medicine is not magic, doctors are not magicians. There’s a lot of situations where nothing can be done, but the average person is very unaware of this.

People are no longer afraid of COVID.  Therefore they’re tired of inconveniencing themselves.

Unfortunately, Australia is going to start opening up.  In NSW the hospitals are going to be overrun in a month.  There are predicted to be many daily deaths because people won’t be able to get ICU care – there won’t be enough beds. The government has taken decisions that make this inevitable. Because the government is happy to sacrifice some old people and some sick people as well.   Because they need to keep the majority happy, and keep the economy running.

Only when people start losing family members will they start to care again. Will they start to fear again.  But it will be too late. 

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