Covid in Ketchum

We follow the Idaho Mountain Express online to maintain indirect contact with Joe and his family who are sheltering at home in the middle of the highest per capita infection rate location in the country. The news there doesn’t tell us much about what’s really going on and neither do his reports but Jan came up with a long article in Buzzfeed, a national outlet, that gave us a fuller picture–both about the course of the spread and through a number of interviews with rich and poor victims, about the range of human impacts.  This quote stayed with me and dominated my morning quiet time in the bathtub and while meditating:

The infectious disease doc came in and said, “You have COVID, and I don’t think you’re going to survive, because you only have 61% of your lung capacity.” They asked him, “Do you still want to have this DNR [do-not-resuscitate order]?” He said yes. “Do you want to be put on a ventilator if needed?” He said yes.

Meanwhile, my dad was gradually improving. He said it was so hard to be alone, with the only people he came into contact with wearing full protective gear. He said it felt like they were scared of him. But he’s a tough cookie. He couldn’t get out of bed or go to the bathroom for nine days, but when they let him out, he took a shower, and came home — that was March 29 — and surprised everyone on the family Zoom call. It was my parents’ 51st anniversary. My mom was just totally taken aback and so happy.

My most persistent concern over the last several years has been the dual business of departure and legacy.  The “Better End” talk I wrote for the Sangha and the updating of our estate and advance directive documents last year addressed the first.  The effort I’ve put in to scanning photographs and retroactive updating of my blog with uncatalogued writings and documents address the second.  But both tasks are far from finished, the opposite of the kind of closure they intend. The ongoing Pandemic adds to my age and health status to make completing them more urgent, and the lockdown should provide the opportunity to get it higher on my list of priorities, but so far that urgency has issued only in procrastination pressure rather than action.

The questions, answers, and subsequent outcome of the old man in the Buzzfeed article captures my confusion about the  advance directive.  At the moment of actual decision he reaffirmed his DNR, but rather than abjuring any heroic artificial lifesaving efforts, as included in my directive, he asked for the ventilator, which then saved his life and brought happiness to his family. This goes against the news that I read lately indicating that those embattled ventilators have the desired effect only in a small  proportion of cases. When writing the directive, I didn’t envision Covid 19, but rather something like a stroke or heart attack after which any recovery would only prolong infirmity. But since then I’ve been diagnosed with coronary heart disease, suffered a (tiny) stroke and a syncope and agreed to the installation of a pacemaker.  And life is good. So if I become infected how will I answer those questions?

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