I felt like I couldn't get a deep breath two nights ago.
Nina was a sleep.
Rob was out burning the midnight oil in his recording studio out back in the garage.
Tobi the puppy was watching me on my bed.
I took an extra dose of my asthma medicine which is a steroid inhaler that I take every day of my life.
It didn't help.
I got scared.
I'd been feeling a tiny bit feverish and for a couple of days I'd been feeling like I was coming down with something.
I was afraid enough that I called the night line for my pulmonologist.
A male nurse talked me through some options.
He called down to the Emergency Room of the hospital where they're located and then called me back.
He said, "You should just drive over and go into the ER.
I can tell them you're coming.
If it's the Virus, they're going to want the advance notice.
It's not busy tonight. There's no wait time right now."
So Rob drove me in my pajamas, robe, and slippers.
When we got there they had an armed guard at the door who told Rob he wasn't allowed to enter.
So he went back to the car.
They had me step inside and put on a mask.
They led me to an exam room and they put up big yellow warning signs saying it was COVID 19.
It's frightening to be the person everyone in the building is afraid of.
The doctor and nurses put on big extra suits and visors and masks right outside my room's glass door before they entered.
As soon as they left my room they took all that stuff off and threw it in a special bin next to my door.
Did that stuff get washed or did all that stuff get thrown away?
They might be dressed that way all the time sometime in the near future.
They might need that stuff all the time soon, not just for one isolated case.
They had me put my robe on a counter off to the side in the room.
I hope they washed that counter later.
They let me leave on my socks and slippers and pajama pants.
I put on their hospital gown.
They gave me x-rays and an EKG all in my room.
They brought in a little portable potty chair so I wouldn't infect the hospital bathroom if I had to pee.
Can I say right here that they are not set up for this?
It's not their fault.
You can't set up for this.
They'd be better off in a way if one whole ER was only seeing Virus patients.
But there are so few Virus cases still in their area that they aren't in the groove for this kind of infectious disease.
That's great, I hope they never have to do this all day and night.
I was examined very briefly.
Then they all left my room and took off all their stuff.
I sat in the room a long while, almost two hours, by myself.
I called the nursing station finally on the room phone by the bed....an old phone...worn and soiled looking...strangely reminding me that this is not a new hospital.
I was reminded many times while I was there that America is not the shiny new country of my childhood.
I used to go to the ER as a child when I'd have an asthma attack.
My parents didn't know what to do.
My mother would allow me to sit with my bed pillow at the kitchen table wheezing, night after night, because it was so hard to breathe that I couldn't lie down.
I would lose my appetite and get very weak.
They let it get to the point where my big brother had to carry me out to the car because I could only crawl...crawl to the bathroom to urinate....crawl back to my chair at the kitchen table, crawl upstairs to my bed.
Let's not talk about my childhood.
But when we would go to the ER which maybe happened four times in my whole childhood, the ER was a dazzling place.
Everything was new, the staff was chipper and brisk and all dressed in white.
That's the impression I had as a child anyway.
Back to the story, I sat in the room alone and I finally got a call back from the doctor himself.
He told me they didn't want to suit up again and risk more exposure to me.
I asked if he had seen many cases they thought were the Virus and he said no.
Over the phone he told me that I didn't have a pulmonary embolism.
I didn't have pneumonia in my lungs.
I wasn't having a heart attack.
I probably had the Virus.
He said they weren't willing to test me for that, but that I should assume I have it.
I asked if I could be tested and he said no.
He said assume you have it and self-quarantine.
The asthma inhaler they left for me to try on the bedside table was an albuterol type..the type that's running out all over the world right now.
It worked for me, perfectly.
My breathing was and is restored to normal and has been now for forty-eight hours.
He told me I could have that brand new inhaler to bring home because it was contaminated now anyway.
I thanked him and hung up.
He said a nurse would come by to discharge me.
He said I could pick up my paperwork as I left at the front entrance, and that I must leave on my mask as I departed and that I shouldn't stop in the restroom.
A nurse didn't come.
I took off the blood pressure monitor.
I took off the little stickers stuck all over my chest.
I put back on my own clothes.
A nurse put on a mask and visor and popped her head in as I was dressing.
She told me my paperwork was at the front and she left.
When I was ready to go I slid open the glass door of my room..using my hand so I hope they wiped that door down.
I walked straight out to the front, noticing that the doors aren't the kind that open automatically and I had to touch the handle to get one of them open.
I was handed my paperwork.
I had called Rob and he had come back to get me, waiting in the warm car running out front.
The parking lot of the ER empty.
I hope to God it stays this way.
This is not the front lines of the COVID 19 pandemic.
This is not the white tents set up in Central Park awaiting the weary and sick and trembling masses.
I hope we all get through this with as few medical workers being exposed as possible.
As for me, the inhaler is working great.
I rested all day yesterday.
Nina and Rob are sick now too, but we all have fairly minor symptoms so far.
We all sat out in the sun at the table in the backyard yesterday afternoon, all of us out of work, all of us sick with the Virus.
We ate the delicious chicken noodle soup I had bought a week ago, bought just in case someone got sick.
Tobi the puppy romped in the yard, entertaining us all, wondering why none of us got up to wrestle with him.
I talked about how I'd like to find out if I have the Virus for sure, and then find out if I am immune to it from here on out.
If I am immune, I'd like to offer my services to go to Central Park with Tobi and my guitar and sing for the people.
I could maybe volunteer with the Billy Graham Association who is sending volunteers to talk with the sick.
I could do that.
I don't know if I'll ever find out whether I had the Virus or not, but as the doctor said to me over the phone, assume you have it and self-quarantine for two weeks.
I am and I was and I will.
Okay, that's my story.
I'm going to do nothing.
I'm going to resist the urge to go for a long walk with Tobi today and instead continue to rest so this doesn't take a turn for the worse.
Love to you.
If we live and if we are very good, God may permit us to be Pirates!