Experiencing COVID-19

Note: The beginning of this post was written while being treated in the hospital for COVID-19 and subsequently finished back at home.

I’ve never been in a hospital longer than an emergency room visit or outpatient procedure, so my current hospitalization while writing this post is a completely unique experience for me. I’m definitely not used to the isolation, the unanswered questions, the not knowing when I’ll be allowed to go back home. Although the level of care I’m receiving is outstanding, insecurities and uncertainties are doing their best to invade my psyche and chip away at my sense of positivity, something that so many identify with my personality and who I am as a person. I decided to share these feelings and my experience with COVID-19, since at the moment I have plenty of time on my hands while sitting in my hospital bed, and the days and nights are bleeding into one another like some amorphous expression of consciousnesses. Left alone to my thoughts, maybe there’s something constructive I can do with this journey, maybe someone can benefit from my story. With over seven million infections to date in our country, maybe someone out there will get the boost they need knowing there’s someone else out there that feels exactly the way they do.

 Albuterol treatment in negative pressure room.

My partner Eric and I always took great pride in doing the right thing during this pandemic, following instructions regarding masks, social distancing and not hanging out at large events. We didn’t want to be part of the problem and it was working. While part of the nation decided it would refuse to wear masks as some ultimate display of loyalty towards our president and a symbolic gesture of freedom, Eric and I wanted to make sure we were saving lives and helping to prevent the spread of this disease. Especially since my mother was gravely ill with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis when COVID-19 first made headlines, and infection would surely mean a death sentence for her. So we followed the rules and did our thing, finding tiny ways to make life employable while the world seemed to be shutting down and shifting into what seemed at times, utter chaos. We were trying to be the good guys for sure, and it seemed to be working.

On September 26th, Eric received the news that a co-worker of his had tested positive for the virus, and although initially concerned, I wasn’t super worried because everyone at his job was great about social distancing and following COVID-19 protocols. Eric would of course need to get tested the next day, and he proceeded to do so on Thursday. Out of an abundance of caution, his work site closed up shop until they had more answers. Since Eric works in the financial sector with a steady stream of customers throughout the day, they didn’t want to run the risk of further exposure to others. The process of initially locating a rapid testing site was a bit confusing, as there are are many locations, some of which are commercial, and everyone offers different kinds of tests. Eric settled on a MDNow location for his initial test, and then drove to a public testing site for rapid results screening. While there, Eric decided he just might as well do all the tests they offered just to be sure about his results. Not too long afterwards, Eric received notification that his rapid test was negative and we were very happy with the news, almost celebratory even. A nice take out meal would be in order to enjoy the evening together and take in the sense of relief.

While Eric and I were enjoying our dinner in our cozy living room, he received a call from the MDNow clinic, the caller id displaying part of the full name, MDNow Urgent, almost as if to warn about the impending news. Eric nervously answered the phone and after his information was verified, Eric discovered his rapid test was actually a false negative, and that he was actually positive with COVID-19. The surreal nature of the moment wasn’t lost to me, but it was somewhat anticlimactic at the same time. We knew so many people could test positive without serious symptoms, and only time would tell what course the disease would take with Eric. We at least had statistics on our side, and that offered some uneasy comfort to us both. I would also have to get tested, but again the level of concern wasn’t huge, just guarded as it were. Even when Eric started to feel run-down later that evening, we were wondering if his symptoms were actually from COVID-19, or possibly an overreaction to the news we received.

The next morning it was clear Eric wasn’t getting any better and his health obviously started to decline. I went to get tested myself at MDNow, and decided to make some chicken soup in anticipation of Eric’s ordeal. I have never made home made chicken soup in my life, but I took on a kind of instant pride of being Eric’s caretaker, and I was going to heal him the old fashioned way… with lots of love and lots of spoiling. I channeled my mother’s spirit for the ingredients to her soup recipe, and even heard “you forgot flat leaf parsley” while thinking of what the ingredients might be. Everything seemed to be falling into place, and I figured this would end up being just a nasty bug for Eric. I was in the zone for sure and we were gonna make it through this will little effort, if any.

Eric symptoms gradually got worse and he was miserable. I was waking him up on a regular basis, reminding him to take in fluids and serving him broth from what ended up being the most delicious organic chicken soup, if I must say so myself. Eric basically slept all day and I was happily playing nurse and loving the opportunity to help him during his time of need. I’m a giver and a caretaker at heart, so this experience was pushing all the right emotional buttons, reminding me of my mom and how she’d take care of me while I was sick as a child… and even not so too long ago after surgery in 2013. My COVID19 test came had come back negative, and although it surprised me, I figured this was the Universe letting me know I’d be taking care of Eric for the long haul, and that’s how it would simply play out. So far, so good, balance and harmony at work in the energetic fabric of time and space.

The following Monday I started not feeling so great and Eric seemed like he was starting to recover, the worse of his symptoms lasting only several days at best.    I decided it was in everyone’s best interest to get tested again, so I made an appointment at a public testing facility.   Initially my symptoms were mostly feeling like I was coming down with a nasty cold, similar to what Eric felt, and I was also feeling tingling in the gums, a sensation that always precedes some kind of illness with me.     I think driving up at the public testing site was the first out of many of times, that I would notice an awareness in some people that they were doing something very important, and took pride in knowing they were possibly saving lives.  Their energy and courtesy instantly made me feel great, and went through the several lines in my car with ease.

As the day went by I began to feel increasingly under the weather.   My sense of taste began to diminish, and then disappeared entirely.    I felt like I had a fever but my temperature was low, actually below normal.      I didn’t feel like eating, and even drinking water or juice was a pain.    I began to lose interest in basically everything, but what I also noticed was really starting to concern me.    Everyone in my family knew Eric and was sick and they were constantly reaching out to me to find out how he was feeling.   Of course this sense of family and caring being extended to my partner meant the world to me, not too many gay men can claim they’ve experienced that.    However, I could tell that my family didn’t think I was sick at all, and that my recent negative test was proof of that, and most likely I was literally “making up” the symptoms subconsciously.       It was subtle at first but then I noticed my sister texting things like “So you’ll live in other words…”  and that really felt horrible as my symptoms progressed.    I was being asked over and over by my siblings “Do you have a fever?” and when my answer was no, this just reinforced their hypothesis that my condition was “sympathetic” at best to Eric’s diagnosis. 

Nighttime had become extremely difficult and on one instance I found myself shivering as if I was dying of fever.   At times the shaking was so intense, it felt like a seizure, and I was wondering to myself “When do I call 911?”   With no fever still, I was feeling extremely concerned, thinking that perhaps I even had sepsis from cutting myself while shaving.    These increasingly bizarre thoughts and insecurities would be common place as I would soon learn during my infection.    Through the recommendation of a co-worker the next day, I decided to use a tele-health service offered by our local hospital, and that changed everything.     I didn’t feel like some little kid who’s family thought he just wanted attention, no…. I was sick and this was textbook COVID-19.   The doctor validated my concerns about my testing scenario and said I would probably test positive later that day, but some people take much longer to convert.    She also said the fever would come and now was the time to prepare my body by taking in fluids, vitamins and resting… much in the same way I did for Eric when he resembled a bedded zombie.

As the days continued to progress, and I was on about day five of my symptoms, Eric began to show great strides in his own recovery.   He was full-on taking care of the dogs and I had become the zombie.    I started to experience nausea and had started throwing up what little food or liquids I could handle.    My fever hovered around 100.1, something that my prompted my sister to respond with “Is that even considered a fever?”   Her Trump leanings are sometimes very evident, and it was sad that even during this time and seeing what was happening to me, her skepticism, however small, was making little trips to the surface for air.     I had now tested positive for COVID-19, but the general attitude in the family was that it would be a four day sickness, something that didn’t gel with the general feeling of foreboding I had in my gut.    By the weekend my cough worsened and there was blood in my sputum. I was in great pain that shot through my body, and the pulse-oximeter I purchased was showing my blood oxygen levels in the low 90’s.   Something wasn’t headed in the right direction.

I think it was Saturday when my friend from work texted me to see how I was doing. Karla found out I was sick through the grapevine… we are a very tight knit department, so when I tested positive the news spread rapidly, not to mention I had visited our office only days before Eric’s test results. Since March, most of the department has worked from home as a safety precaution, however I needed to get my laptop upgraded and that meant dropping it off to a technician in our building. My positive test meant sending anyone I interacted with home (verified through security video footage) and conducting some very thorough sterilization procedures. As I was texting with Karla, I told her about the blood in my sputum and she immediately responded with “No!!! Call your doctor. Coughing blood is not normal.”

Thankfully I decided to take Karla’s advice and contacted my primary care doctor first thing Monday morning. The blood in my sputum had increased, and my O2 level wasn’t the best, hovering around 91 and 92 percent saturation. They scheduled an appointment for Tuesday morning and I was good with waiting one more day, even though the coughing was getting so much worse, sometimes extending into fits which made me like I was going to pass out. Needless to say I was looking forward to getting some much needed attention for my symptoms, COVID-19 has this way of making you feel very disconnected and of course the added confusion I was experiencing wasn’t helping much either. I was really in a scary place, feeling as though my health was in a rapid decline, and also feeling like few in my family were taking me seriously. Talk about feeling completely alone and not having all your faculties together.

The morning of my video appointment with my primary care was tough. I was coughing up more blood in my sputum, a nice bright red which meant it was pretty fresh, and I was feeling like total shit. When I finally connected with my doctor, it didn’t take him long to tell me I needed to visit the emergency room, that he was concerned I could have a pulmonary embolism. Holy shit, those were some tough words to hear, I knew I was getting worse, but I didn’t realize it was that bad. My doctor told me he would forward orders for a CT Scan and chest x-ray, and I needed to go as soon as possible. I got up from the computer and I walked over to Eric, still trying to process everything the doctor told me. When I explained to him that I could have an embolism, the look of fear quickly washed over his face. I wanted to take a shower but he recommended we leave right then, and so we did.

Walking into an emergency room with full blown COVID-19 is a very strange experience. You’re not only feeling extremely ill, but you feel as though everyone is staring at you, like they know already you’re carrying a contagious disease which has killed over a million people. As I walked through the automatic doors of Baptist Hospital’s emergency room, a triage nurse was stationed right there to make sure people like me didn’t walk around everywhere looking for assistance. I immediately told her I was COVID positive, and that my doctor sent me here for diagnostic testing. I was somewhat comforted by her response to me, clearly she had dealt with others in the same situation, and as such, was very calm, relaxed and extremely professional. I was directed to have a seat in the very large waiting area, where chairs were widely spaced… what seemed like at least ten feet apart.

I don’t think I sat there for more than a few minutes before I was put into a wheel chair and taken to a bed within the ER. Interestingly enough, my memory of what happened next is sort of fragmented, which makes complete sense because my oxygen saturation levels were quickly declining. I know I was almost immediately put into a gown and placed on oxygen. They placed electrodes on my chest and then not long afterwards, I started into a coughing fit. My perception of the following events is somewhat different than Eric’s. While I was coughing and gasping for air, it seemed like an eternity before someone showed up… turns out not being able to breathe makes time move pretty slow. On the other hand, Eric was super impressed with not only how fast they came to assist me, but that the decision was made almost instantly to move me to a negative pressure room where I would be given a breathing treatment of albuterol. It goes without saying that this would be one of the many times during my stay at Baptist Hospital, that I would be blown away by their preparedness to handle COVID-19 patients even though it was a relatively new disease.

Albuterol is a drug that opens your airways, my mom used to take it daily to treat her pulmonary fibrosis. It’s administered in an ultra-fine mist that you breathe in… and also exhale the excess. Because the mist is so fine and it’s been in your lungs with your new best friend Mr. 19, it can infect others in the room as it floats around. A negative pressure room is basically a designated room in the ER with a door, and a large floor to ceiling machine with white duct work. It has a very bio-hazard look to it, and it’s loud while it sucks out all the air from the area along with any contaminated albuterol mist from my lungs. Once the treatment begins, everyone has to leave the room as a safety precaution, and that alone is pretty unnerving. I think maybe it had been 30 minutes since I walked through the doors of the ER and I was already in this strange looking area, all by myself, getting a treatment so I could actually breathe.

Still experimental at the time of hospitalization, remdesivir is a new anti-viral drug for the fight against COVID-19.

After I had finished with the albuterol, I would be wheeled back into my original room in the ER feeling much more alert than before. It’s amazing what a little O2 can do for your brain. A nurse walked in an introduced herself, she was so very kind and funny, even telling me some pretty cool factoids about her scrubs to lift my spirits. Being a former docent at a zoo, I loved this kind of information and it really put my mind at ease. Turns out her scrubs, glossy pink in color, were made from the same material as air bags so they would be more anti-microbial than the traditional cloth ones we’re used to seeing. Of course, the scrubs weren’t the only thing different about people that came to interact with me. They also wore black rubber masks with purple respirators… like a gas mask that didn’t cover the eyes. Speaking of eyes, they wore protection that looked much like the goggles you wore in chemistry class in high school. Clearly the safety of the staff tending to me was also a huge priority for the hospital. The only problem was that almost everyone looked the same to me, and it was hard to tell the difference between the many amazing nurses that took care of me during my stay, so I started notating their names on my phone.

A couple of hours had passed since I arrived at the emergency room and by then I had a chest x-ray, CT-Scan and lots of labs including a blood gas. The gentlemen that performed the test was an expert, and I honestly didn’t feel a thing despite a needle being stuck deep into my wrist with a needle. He had given me some lidocaine first, which really helped make the procedure completely painless. Not too long afterwards I was given a small lunch, told I was being admitted and that my room was nearly ready and waiting for me. I was really blown away at the speed which everything seemed to be happening, and I sensed this was partly due to my diagnosis and condition. I would be brought to the COVID-19 area of this hospital… called 4 Tower, something I was familiar with since I volunteered there for a couple of years as a teenager. Before I knew it I was being wheeled into my room, a little scared and wondering how long I would be there. It was then that a nurse looked at me and said “Oh look, it’s my new patient!”

You’re not allowed to have visitors when you have COVID-19, the only people you see are heavily masked, gloved and covered up with fancy scrubs. It’s hard sometimes to understand their words because of the personal protective equipment (PPE) they’re wearing, but I noticed something almost immediately… these layers of rubber and synthetic materials didn’t affect their desire, disposition or level of care I received. This made all the difference since I would have felt like a lab rat with all the needles, hoses, injections, IV bags and machines around me. There was so much I didn’t know or understand… I felt instantly cut off from my friends and family, feeling almost as if I was there against my will. I started thinking of the show Orange Is The New Black and suddenly felt the need to hold back tears. I didn’t want to lose it and cry, these people were here to help me and I needed to focus on the intention, not the perception of the information my senses were picking up. I would later call this feeling of fear and confusion “COVID on the brain.

It’s hard to recognize the people that help keep you alive when you can’t see most of them.

I slept a lot the first day I was in the hospital, the cozy and comforting kind of naps you associate with your couch and rainy days. I was exhausted from what I had been going through at home, and my body totally needed the rest. As I began to wake up I coughed a little, and then some more… and then more after that. I had entered a full blown coughing fit and it hurt like hell. I could barely catch a breath between coughs, so I picked up my hospital bed control thingy to call the nurses station. It’s the weirdest sensation knowing all you have to do is press that button, but the instruction to cough is queued up in your head multiple times. It’s like you have to wait for those commands to be processed until your finger finally presses the button… and then you wait for someone to respond. Fortunately a nurse answered quickly and I had to summon the strength to get the words “I can’t stop coughing!” out of my mouth. When the nurse arrived to my room, she saw the situation I was in and immediately ordered more cough medicine with codeine in it. Relief came eventually, but not fast enough… I started to develop anxiety just thinking about the next coughing fit, which of course would come.

Nighttime came and the loneliness really starts to set in. There’s some comfort when dinner arrives, Baptist Hospital is known for their great food and they lived up to their reputation. Eric called me via FaceTime and it was great to see him, but it also saddened me. I could see how scared he was and I didn’t want him to be afraid. I wanted to be there to comfort him and I couldn’t be. He had left the emergency room after I was taken for my CT-Scan… we have three dogs at home that needed walking and he wasn’t allowed to come up to my room… so he drove home, called his parents on the way… and cried. Eric laughed about it during our FaceTime chat, but I could tell he was still very concerned about my well being… and so was I.

“These strangers also got sick with COVID-19 and decided to use their experience to possibly save the life of another… my life.”

Sleeping in a hospital is never easy. I had done it before while staying with my mom and even once my dad. However as a patient it’s completely different and I would soon learn that you’re basically woken every couple of hours to make sure you’re alive, to draw blood, take your blood pressure or inject you with something. If a human doesn’t wake up you, a machine will, as it complains in a digital fashion with a variety of beeps. Having slept most of the day, I found it really difficult to sleep at night. I was anxious and started to feel agitated about everything from the phone that was tucked by my side, to the oxygen tube running up my nose, and even the noises coming from other rooms. I didn’t know it then, but I would soon discover that much of my emotions were being heightened by the steroid dexamthasone I was being administered on a daily basis. It also would make it nearly impossible for me to sleep during most of my stay.

My hospital gown felt like an oven at night, thanks to very strong steroids like dexamethasone… so I took it off.

The next few days would bring about a variety of revelations, one of which was kind of a surprise to me. No one really tells you how long they’re going to keep you in the hospital when you have COVID-19, and being that insurance companies are involved, I thought this would be kept to an absolutely minimum. I was pretty taken back when I think on the third day I asked how long I would be there, and was basically told they couldn’t even think about that until my oxygen saturation improved. I was on three liters of oxygen at the time, and often couldn’t maintain a saturation above 92/93 percent. That news pretty much solidified for me that I was in pretty bad shape, and had I not gone to the hospital when I did, I would have not survived. This was made even more evident when I was told that donor plasma was being ordered for me, and I was being given one of the same experimental medications the President was being treated with, remdesivir. Basically they weren’t taking any chances with me… I wasn’t a mild case, I needed all the help I could get.

One thing I was totally not prepared for, would change me in ways I’m still trying to figure out. I experienced an immense outpouring of love and support from friends, family, co-workers, FaceBook friends and people I have never met. My phone was blowing up with text messages and emails from so many individuals, some of which I have always respected and admired, but had no clue the feeling was mutual. Part of my duties at work involved Zoom video support of a local LGBTQ Advisory Board, and I was touched deeply when their Program Director and Chairwoman were texting me daily. Then to top if off, my extremely loving co-worker Ana tells me the entire board said a prayer together for me… heart chakra explosion… tears… just amazing. If that weren’t enough, the online spiritual groups I belong to just went all out with announcements, prayers, energy healings… you name it. Just when I thought I couldn’t handle anymore expressions of love, care packages began to arrive from my sister and several very dear friends of mine, crowding my small hospital room. If you’ve listened to my podcast, you might have heard my co-worker Pauline speak about her experience as an African-American woman in information technology. However, during this entire ordeal, she was like a mom to me, calling twice a day to ask how I was feeling. I can’t describe how much this meant, and I will never forget this expression of love and kindness.

Even with all this love being directed at me, the days began to gradually bleed into one another, day and night having no real meaning. I became so used to the routine of getting blood drawn at 4 AM, getting my anti-coagulant injection in the stomach, and having my blood pressure taken every three hours, that I could literally sleep my way through it. The exception was one late evening, when my donor plasma arrived shortly before midnight. They have to check up on you constantly while it’s being transfused, going as far as to sit outside your door the first 30 minutes to make sure you’re not having an allergic reaction. Once again the commitment to care I received was absolutely incredible, and the nurse performing this procedure was not only amazing, she was making me laugh. The floor was extremely busy that night and there was lots going on, but she chatted with me about how her evening was going and what she needed to do with the plasma. I actually felt like my care was more of a partnership at that point, she wasn’t just treating a sick patient, she was involving me and it was awesome.

While the plasma slowly emptied from the bag and into my body, I couldn’t help but to look up at in and get lost in what was happening. I looked at the clear brownish liquid and took a moment to thank the person or persons it came from. Here I was, sick in the hospital receiving treatment to save my life, and it was in the form of a complete desire to help others and nothing more. These strangers also got sick with COVID-19 and decided to use their experience to possibly save the life of another… my life. As I’m thinking about this completely selfless act, another thought enters my mind, the awareness of people that won’t perform the simple task of wearing a mask which could also save a life… or even end one should they decide not to. No needles in the arm, no traveling to a location to have someone collect your blood… just a simple piece of fabric over your face, that could have the same end result as this huge bag of plasma. These thoughts continued to ruminate in my head… amazing people donating their time and life supporting fluids, compared to those that make the choice to possibly infect others in order to show allegiance to some political party or ideology. Seriously how did this extreme duality even come about in the first place? Was our society always this way? Or has it manifested itself through current leadership? Whatever the answer is, I was completely terrified by this realization. Finally the large bag of plasma finally emptied around 2:30 in the morning, which happened to be my nurses’ lunch break. She stopped eating her meal and came in to ask me how I was doing and silenced the IV machine which was loudly complaining. After disconnecting the empty vinyl pouch from my line, she said goodnight to me and I drifted off to sleep wondering why some people could be so kind and caring, and others could be so careless and cruel.

Examples of kindness continued to make themselves known as each day went by and I started to fight the urge to fall into a depression. The staff of Baptist Hospital kept me going each day, their dedication giving me the will to deal with yet another day of crappy cable television, coughing fits and mostly sleepless nights. One nurse in particular, treated me as though I was her son during her shift. Her motherly energy radiated outward, and this reminded me of my own mother whom I lost only several months earlier. Here was someone up in the middle of the night instead of at home, covered in bulky PPE equipment, taking care of a complete stranger with a contagious and potentially deadly disease, and she did it with a level of compassion and understanding that made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. To top if off, she was an older African American woman, and had no doubt experienced the exact opposite from white men like me during the course of her lifetime. This awareness of her humanity moved me tremendously, and I was saddened to see her go in the morning when her shift ended.

It was day five of my stay that I was told that I would be doing a six minute ‘O2 Walk” through the hallways of the floor. This would be done without the aid of oxygen and would help determine not only if I was going to go home soon, but if I would qualify for portable O2 at home. Memories of my mom and her oxygen machine flooded my head, and I become somewhat emotionally distressed at the prospect of having my own unit, as if somehow our fates would be the same. Not too long afterwards, a nurse entered my room with my very own airbag scrub outfit, and I got to see how it was to actually wear something that looked so uncomfortable. Turns out, they weren’t all that bad… at least for the six minutes that I was walking. The verdict was that my oxygen stayed between 92 and 94 while I was walking, and that wasn’t bad at all for someone being treated for a nasty case of COVID-19 pneumonia. I became very excited when the nurse mentioned the possibility of me actually going home the next day, which would end up being the sixth and final day of my hospitalization.

“COVID-19 was a blessing of sorts to me, the perspectives I have gained have been truly life changing, and I want to make sure I don’t lose site of them.”

The day finally came when I would be discharged and sent back home. As Eric was driving me back to our condo, I couldn’t believe it had been six days since I was admitted. It all seemed like a blur, like it was just one of those dreams you have that seem to last all night and make you extremely restless. I was so happy to be going home, but at the same time, felt somewhat disconnected. I don’t know how to describe it really… perhaps part of it had to do with the various steroids and other medications that were in my system. Our dogs didn’t even seem that excited I was home, almost less excitement than usual. I took a much needed nap back in the guestroom where I continue to sleep, over a month since being tested positive. Even though Eric was the source of my infection, I didn’t want to risk re-infecting him, something that was recommended to me by the various doctors that treated me and continue to do so. Hopefully by Tuesday of next week I will be cleared to be a part of the general population, and Eric and I can enjoy dinners outdoors on Lincoln Road once again.

My new best friend. I use this every day to help my lungs heal and regain capacity.

The strangest and most spectacular thing happened to me the next morning, something that I wasn’t even expecting. I woke up for the first time at home in almost a week, and everything was completely different. Every single aspect of my awareness was a blessing… the sun coming in through the window, the person talking about wood carving on public television, greeting Eric after he woke up, a glass of milk… it all seemed to radiate like magic. Every single moment… every second of every minute, was something to be celebrated. I was alive and that was everything. I felt as though I knew why we were all here, what our purpose was, and I fully understood it. It wasn’t complicated at all, it was to enjoy the very essence of being on this planet and to live it to the fullest. It was almost as though I wondered why everyone wasn’t celebrating all the time. This feeling didn’t go away rapidly either, it stayed for hours and hours until gradually subsiding. It was truly a spiritual experience, and I journaled about it in great detail so I would be able to hang onto this sense of appreciation for as long as possible, for the rest of my life even. I never wanted to forget this feeling of gratitude and appreciation, not just for my life, but for everyone else around me and their contributions to my life.

While my awareness of my continued blessings seem to lift me to cloud nine, and familiar kind of anger creeped back in. Just as I did while hospitalized, I became hyper aware of those persons on this planet trying to do good, and those who blatantly refuse in order to prove a point. It was a stark contrast to the people I had seen in the hospital, everyone trying with great effort to treat those infected with COVID-19, while a quick look out my window at home revealed those who couldn’t care less. And there was lots of them. I wanted scream at people without masks from my balcony, and let them know this wasn’t fake, it was completely real. In fact, my first FaceBook post, while overwhelmingly filled with positive, loving and much appreciated feedback, yielded a response from someone that said they were glad I was better, from “whatever it was I had.” This stung big time… there’s nothing worse than someone trying to take away ownership of your pain, and on top of that, making it about themselves. Unfortunately, it didn’t stop there. Twitter offered much of the same in even greater frequency, people with a completely warped sense of reality, countering my attempts to raise awareness. At first I thought about blocking them or taking my post down, but then I realized it’s important that others see how dangerous an unchecked political ideology can be. Science goes out the window, and the words of a bankrupt reality star become gospel. Scary times we live in.

So this is me now. I am almost fully recovered, still coughing but that will remain for some time I’m told. I monitor my oxygen saturation levels on a daily basis, and I do lung exercises to help improve my breathing. Every now and then I get out of breath, and I have to use a rescue inhaler. I also have an extremely low tolerance for anyone that doesn’t want to make this world a better place. Simple as that. If you don’t want to help others, uplift them, make them feel great about themselves, lend a hand when they need it, go the extra mile for your fellow human… then I don’t want to know you. It’s not my job to make you feel better about yourself, because clearly you are one miserable person. If you can’t wear a mask because you think it violates your rights, then you must think you have a right to needlessly endanger and possibly kill others. If you are assaulted by another person you go to jail, microbial assault is no different. The human thing to do is to prevent this from spreading, not to encourage others to cause harm through your words and actions. I just don’t have the time to deal with people like this, because the energy it takes to do so must be directed at the good human beings of this world that truly need our help. That’s where my resources are going from now on, supporting those that support others. COVID-19 was a blessing of sorts to me, the perspectives I have gained have been truly life changing, and I want to make sure I don’t lose site of them. With everything going on right now in our country, things may seem like a total shit show, but there are still good and wonderful souls out there, trying to making a difference and succeeding… just like they did for me.

Thank you.

Social Media Science

I’ve only been on mainstream social media for a little over two years now, and I’ve noticed some patterns, some of which are pretty darn cool and some of which are just plain frightening. Social media allows regular individuals, such as myself, to share information with the masses, with the intention of dispensing ideas or even influencing others. This can be an amazingly powerful tool, as we’ve found out with our last presidential election and the well documented interference by a foreign government… who used social media to in an attempt to influence the outcome. Whether or not they were successful, remains to be seen by some, however there’s another angle to social media that in my opinion can be just as, or even more dangerous than fake FaceBook accounts spreading “fake news” about Hillary Clinton. I’m speaking of “social media science” and its impact on our every day lives.

This morning I was thumbing through my news feed and I saw a post regarding vaccinations and how they cause autism. The person who posted this article was wowed and amazed by the facts which revealed the “truth” about autism and the cause behind it. No one wants to find out their child has a developmental impairment, especially when it’s not really certain how it happened. And this is how social media science is effective, it’s completely fear based… fueled by speculation and misinformation, giving people an answer when one is so desperately needed. Despite many scientific studies pointing to the contrary, people choose the answer that is preferred, because it is in fact an answer, and not “we really don’t know.” These “answers”, based loosely on data from the same studies that proved the opposite, are defended with an incredible degree of assertiveness. Sound familiar? It should. Social media science is modeled similarly off another fear based construct… organized religion. They share a very deep rooted commonality… people seeking answers to something that potentially scares the shit out of them.

Just like religion, social media science can look really pretty. It can look like real science by showing graphs and charts, and make the reader feel pretty darn good. It makes them feel safe because if they don’t get their kid vaccinated, they’ll be perfectly fine and grow up to be happy productive adults. Right? This is along the same lines of “If I don’t sin and I go to church, I’ll be in God’s favor and my family won’t be killed off.” Of course, we all know bad things happen to good people, but there are still those comforted in knowing that God must have killed our neighbor’s wife because surely she had some skeletons in her closet. Again, fear based questions answered with fear based conclusions, none of which have any merit… but they’re still an answer which satisfies our ego’s (thank you Sigmund) desperate quest to constantly feel safe and secure.

“And this is how social media science is effective, it’s completely fear based… fueled by speculation and misinformation, giving people an answer when one is so desperately needed. “

Social media science also helps people feel better about frightening global issues… the stuff of blockbuster Hollywood films that brings people in mass to theaters. The same reason people choose to believe that an evil government plot is affecting their children, is what makes them want to believe there’s really no such thing as global warming or climate change. It scares the crap out of them to know we’re on the verge of self destruction… take the concept away and wallah! No more nightmares. People can’t wrap their head around the idea that if the right ice shelf collapses, sea levels would instantaneously rise six feet or more and millions of people around the planet would die. They really don’t want to know about the Twaites Glacier and the fact there’s a huge crack in it… which is growing. So let’s spread the notion that the science is all wrong, and there’s nothing to fear, maybe even throw in some “God wouldn’t let that happen, he promised with a rainbow.” to really ping our religious core.

The CDC is counting on some pretty basic graphics to show the importance of vaccinations. Perhaps they need to use some “social media science” production values instead.

Now some people might read this and think “Mike is talking about pseudo science and that’s already a thing… Mike it’s called pseudo science you dumb ass.” I would respond by saying that the name, pseudo science, is actually part of the problem. You can’t identify something that’s hurting you if you don’t give it a name that accurately describes it. Pseudo science is much too generalized a term, and can be used anywhere with anything. Social media science is adapted perfectly for cyberspace, where information can be rapidly shared and spread “virally.” You can teach pseudo science in a classroom or textbook, but social media science looks great and it sounds even better thanks to snazzy video and audio production tools. It provides enough answers, albeit with no basis in reality, to calm and soothe the scared parent, the elderly smiling at their grand children and to the kid that can’t sleep at night. Unfortunately with deadly consequences… for all of us.

The Centers for Disease Control website notes that in 1964-65, more than 12 million Americans were infected with the German measles (rubella), which killed 2,000 babies. Another figure shows that more than 15,000 people were killed by diphtheria in 1921. Of course there’s polio, cervical cancer and a host of other illnesses which can be prevented by vaccines, and which could potentially kill thousands or even millions each year. You would think that the “fear” of these diseases alone would want people to be vaccinated against them, with so much evidence of their effectiveness. The CDC states that only 15 cases of German Measles have been reported since 2012…. a dramatic reduction and one would think, proof enough to convince people that such precautions work. However my guess is that the lack of the disease in the general population, in combination with social media science, redirects the fear to something much more simple and easier to digest… a conspiracy. Because once again, no one wants to believe these things happen. People choose to believe something completely false, rather than the cure itself. Fucking amazing. But hey, the article they saw on FaceBook was written incredibly well, had an awesome sound track, got 4,000 likes, and only took them three minutes to read… and to make a decision which could potentially kill their kid. Thank you social media science.

Good Nutrition Is An Uphill Climb

Each day, consumers are offered more and more ways to make better choices and eat healthier, which will hopefully lead to a longer life with less visits to the doctor. Organic versions of our favorite foods are increasingly popular and available, even foods that you didn’t even think could be organic are showing up on supermarket shelves. While walking through the beautiful pristine isles of Target recently, I spotted an organic version of Capri Sun fruit drink. Yes, the sugar and chemical mix of yesteryear is now organic. But is it any better for you? Healthy labels may sound great, but more choices actually means more research for the person trying to do the right thing. As it’s often noted, food has a story and you should know the characters involved and the journey its made, before it ends up in your stomach.

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Tearing Your Bicep Off The Bone

Humans do really stupid things. It really is a miracle that we’re all still here on this planet, going about our lives, raising families, when we must make at least ten stupid mistakes a day. They can be really obvious at times, like people running red lights, texting while driving and parents not watching kids… all examples of the more traditional stupid choices the fully conscious and aware make on a regular basis. Then there’s the unexpected, but fully preventable accidents which make TV shows like America’s Funniest Home Videos, such a hit. You know, the program that gives us permission to laugh and take pleasure in the pain, suffering and embarrassment of others. While an extremely successful concept for ABC, it does offer the viewer a chance to learn from someone else’s follies. In this same spirit, I thought I’d share a mistake I made, which led to the very bizarre and painful experience of literally tearing my bicep muscle off the bone. It’s really something you don’t want to try at home.

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