Karen Galatz
Journalist, Columnist, Blogger

Pandemic, Pneumonia, Protests, Prayers, Healing

Always one to be different, I got pneumonia amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Coughing, high fevers, weak, felt like I was going to die, swabbed (twice!) (yuck) for coronavirus, but lucky me, pneumonia, not pandemic.

Lucky, yes. But still, sicker than a dog. For more than a week, I had teeth-rattling fevers of 103+. For more than a week, I had lively conversations with various deceased relatives, comforting in their own strange way, but still, odd. And my cough? I rivaled the racking sound (and pain) of a four-pack-a-day smoker.

When I first got sick, we went to the Emergency Room. And because it wasn’t clear what was wrong, I had to enter through the COVID-19 door. My husband could not go in with me. That was terrifying. I was weak. I was scared. I had no idea what would happen. As I looked back at Jon, I wondered if I would ever see him again.

But from the moment, I walked in, I knew I was in good hands. The hospital staff was calm and kind. And there was none of the usual ER waiting around. Tests started happening fast. EKG. Blood tests. Of course, the dreaded COVID-19 swab. Absent was the usual filling out of forms before somebody would see me for my terrible aches and pains. Absent was the usual repeating 10 times over to 10 different people the names of medication I was taking. Absent also was the “You’ll have to wait for the doctor for the results” maddening formality. Each test completed, the technician told me the results and kindly shared in my relief. “EKG normal. You didn’t have a heart attack.” Check one worry off the list. The COVID-19 test results came back one hour later. Negative! Hurrah. Cross that HUGE worry off the list.

The initial verdict was a bad virus exacerbated by an underlying long-term untreated health problem. Home I went. Still sick. Still miserable. But happily, home.

But I kept getting sicker. And sicker.

After a few days, my husband took me to the doctor’s office — sort of. Because I was still exhibiting coronavirus-like symptoms, I wasn’t “allowed” in the main medical building. Instead, we were, after pressing my ID against the closed car window — sequestered to a spot in the parking garage — until someone wearing a hazmat-ish suit escorted mask-wearing me into a special building, to be evaluated. Yes, new day, same tests: COVID-19 nose swab, blood tests, chest X-ray.

The diagnosis: pneumonia.

I got lucky. I was able to go home, fortified with prescriptions, and a better regime to fight the high fevers and cough. No hospitalization required.

Last year I had pneumonia and spent a week in the hospital. I couldn’t imagine a week in the hospital now amid the pandemic. Frightening. No husband to hold my hand. No adult children allowed to visit and crack sarcastic, concerned jokes.

Yes, I was lucky, but I’m not sure my husband got such a great deal, dealing with sick me while also attending to his work, demanding clients, and unforgiving project deadlines. At one point, I recall him kneeling by the bed, trying to feed me soup, pleading with me to try some. I remember giggling, saying that this was sort of romantic. He stared at me like I was out of it. I guess I was it.

Once we got the pneumonia diagnosis, it took several days for the antibiotics to kick in, the awful fever to abate, and relief to set in.

But as miserable as I was, I reveled in the knowledge I wasn’t in the hospital alone. I kept thinking about all the COVID-19 patients around the world, isolated and terrified in hospitals, sick and dying without the solace of loved ones.

I, on the other hand, was getting so many phone calls, text messages, emails, and even deliveries of flowers, homemade casseroles, and soup that Jon shut my phone off and put on a note on the door asking people to text him when they came to the door instead of ringing the bell so I could sleep!

Now, I’m finally on the mend, still coughing a bit, still exhausted, but alert to the world. While sick, I was swaddled in love and care. While sick, I sweated, coughed, and moaned through a month of pandemic, Mother’s Day, my birthday, and then, the murder of a black man at the hands of the police and the start of protests across the nation and world.

Yes, I’m on the mend thanks to non-stop love and affection. Now, as our country suffers from disease and injustice, I can only pray for such similar healing power and justice.

About the Author
Karen Galatz is the author of Muddling through Middle Age, which provides women (and men) of a certain age a light-hearted look at the perils and pleasures of growing older. An award-winning journalist, her national news credits include the The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour and the Nightly Business Report. Her fiction and non-fiction writing has been published across the U.S. A native of New York City and Las Vegas, Karen now lives in Berkeley, CA with her husband, two children, and one neurotic dog named Olga, rescued from Florida’s Hurricane Erma. It all makes for a lot of geography and a lot of humor.
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