“I woke up to a world I never saw coming, and to medical and social communities that aren’t designed to meet my complicated set of needs. But I also woke up to a world where I experience God’s redemptive work in unique ways that would be unavailable to me if I were anyone but who I am.”
I wrote these words in the introduction to If I Should Die my capstone for the English degree I completed last August. It’s true. I’ve been the “special one” for the past three years, the girl who walks (or rolls, if it’s an emergency), into a healthcare facility and is immediately the top priority. With two strokes, seizures, and a semi-permanent migraine, how much more important could I be? Honestly, I wasn’t even too scared by COVID-19 since I was the special one. Any intelligent doctor would bump me to the top of their list if I happened to get sick.
Until they didn’t.
The week after San Jose’s sheltering order came out, I developed a dry cough. I called Kaiser, fully expecting a test since I was “high risk.” No test. Tests were for higher risk patients like seniors and asthmatics. When my seizure meds stopped working and my cough morphed into coughing fits, I called back. Obviously I was special enough to get tested now. No test. Now they were saving the tests for patients who were candidates for hospital admission. This time the doctor admitted that I’d be a special case under normal circumstances – just not at this point in COVID-19. I’d failed the “special” test for the first time three years. But not to worry, she said, most people like me got better in seven days. Seven days later my seizure meds still weren’t working, I couldn’t get out of bed, and I stopped breathing during my five-minute-plus coughing fits. But the pandemic had intensified to such an extent that even this wasn’t serious enough for a test, much less hospital admission. My doctor prescribed medicine strong enough to keep me breathing during fits and told me to hope for the best. Mercifully “the best” eventually arrived, albeit painstakingly slowly. Even more mercifully, Ivan never developed more than a mild cough. Praise God for His protective hand!
Getting sick was one of the best things that could have happened to me. God used it to remind me that I’m not always THE special one, in spite of three years of conditioning to the contrary. The truth? I didn’t need a test. Would it have gratified my need to feel important? Sure. Would it have helped me get better? No. I also didn’t need a hospital admission. There were moments when we thought I did, but my doctor was right after all. I didn’t need a ventilator or an IV to break a raging fever, and I would have just taken away a bed from someone who did. Thankfully prescription cough medicine sufficed, even if it didn’t always work perfectly. What I did need was to look around me. To remember that my doctor was treating patients even though she had a baby at home. To listen to the ambulance sirens wailing by our apartment every day. To read news articles about the outbreak already infiltrating New York. So many people were more special than me, in one way or another.
And that’s what I’d like to share as those of us in San Jose face another month of sheltering. It’s tempting to read about other states reopening and grumble, “What about us? Aren’t our financial and educational and social needs just as important as theirs?” Yes, our needs are certainly urgent. But there is so much at stake that we can’t see. Our leaders are looking at the big picture, while all we can see are our living rooms and the sky outside our windows. Local healthcare workers are still risking themselves daily to save lives, and if fewer people are dying or getting sick, it’s thanks to their efforts and the strict guidelines we’ve been following since March. So take heart and join me in supporting them and thanking God for our leaders, leaders who are trying to safeguard us even if we don’t always agree with their timeline.
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established…For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. “