Screaming inside my heart, lungs

In my last post, I reflected on how my deceased brother continues to inspire me to get outside and to exercise — for my health, nerves, sanity.

He also inspires my outrage.

Nicole Chung tweet: “what is everyone doing to mitigate the adverse effects of constant incandscent rage, I'd love to know"

His step-mother (we have different dads) rightly pointed out that during this pandemic, David — in addition to fueling and calming himself with biking and running — would have been pulling double-shifts at the hospital in Houston where he worked as a radiologist, while taking the stairs, always taking the stairs.

If he were alive, I’d be worried sick about his exposure from his job even though a lot of the time he worked in a dimly lit office full of light boxes and computers rather than at the bedsides of critically ill patients. But who knows what he’d be up against in this situation? I’ve actively tried not to think about his coworkers. Every single one of them is someone’s brother, daughter, husband, friend. Trying to save the life of another sister, son, wife, friend.

I’ve seen the x-rays of Covid-19 patients. The way lungs, once so smooth and translucent that you could count a person’s ribs, become thick and gauzy, then overwhelmed with what are referred to as “glass-like shards” obscuring everything. The way these images vividly illustrate what happens to our robust breathing organs as they are clogged, the way capacity is rapidly diminished, how obvious it is in these pictures, even to those with no medical knowledge, that a machine must become necessary for the body to receive air.

How devastating would it be to, day after day after day, review chest x-rays that showed internal organs at war? How much more devastating would it be when, mid-stream, your state’s governor opened all the bars?

I’m livid on David’s behalf — and on behalf of all healthcare workers — because of the cavalier behavior of many, the needless risks people are taking out of boredom. The insane chances so many are taking with their own lives and those of others because of political or religious or some other beliefs I can’t comprehend. Boredom is a luxury. Viruses don’t care how you vote or pray. Science is real whether you like it or not.

Hate and denial won’t save you, as this guy found out. Wear a damn mask.

How many times do we have to watch one state after another become a hot spot? How many times does PPE have to become scarce? How many horrendous illnesses will it take? How many deaths? How many resurgences will we have to witness, if we are lucky enough only to be witnesses? How can anyone, at this late stage in the game, pretend that they or those they love are immune to this highly intelligent, mighty illness? Why do so many refuse to acknowledge that, at the end of the day, we are all vulnerable, we are all human?

I’ve read about the burnout of emergency room doctors and nurses, the ones who’ve caught the virus, those who have died from it — and who have died from their own hands, too crushed by the enormity of the crisis, too bereft with helplessness to forge on. If that had happened to my brother, my already mountainous grief would have been multiplied by millions, climbed to the sky, and destroyed me, so pointless it would have been.

Today, I saw a new headline so horrendous I stared at it like I was rubbernecking at the scene of a terrible car crash: “Man, 30, Dies After Attending a ‘Covid Party,’ Texas Hospital Says.”

“‘I thought this was a hoax,’ the man told his nurse… ‘I guess I was wrong.’”

I’d seen clips of the person in the White House using that word to manipulate, I’d read about evangelicals saying they believed God would protect them, I watched hoards pretend corpses weren’t stacking up in funeral homes, falling prey to absurd propaganda. But still, it is difficult to accept that this can possibly be real; that someone would actively try to catch something deadly, to prove it isn’t. And not even a child, but a 30-year-old man.

“Attending such a party may be a path to an early demise, if not chronic and unrelenting fatigue, chest pain, difficulty breathing and daily fevers, if you do survive,” an emergency physician said. Why, at this point, does any doctor have to say this?

July 4th parties were bad enough. Now Disney being open is a priority. Mickey? Really? How relentlessly helpless and hopeless must health care professionals in Florida feel?

I can’t even begin to address the federal government’s deadly response, the millions of jobs lost, the countless future homeless, the kids set back in school, the unbelievable devastation we will feel for so long that was largely avoidable. It all makes me scream inside my heart — the way Japan has coached its roller coaster riders! For this minute, I’m on fire considering only the many dedicated people we create horrible work for, whose health we actively threaten, who we treat like an afterthought though our very lives depend on them. People like my brother.

It’s genuinely hard to imagine just how outraged David would be had he lived to see this. It seems like it would take a hundred bike rides and 100 flights of stairs just to tamp down his fury for one hour. But maybe that’s me.



Illustration by Kevin Kobsic, tweet by Nicole Chung


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