It is easy to be wise after the event.Arthur Conan Doyle
I know. I’m usually Love and Light and Optimism. But you also know, above all, I’m going to be real, I’m going to talk straight with you. I’m going to do that now. Because, you see, I’m worried that you are playing Russian Roulette without realising that’s what you are doing. And seeing I already played that game and lost, I hope you can spare me five minutes while I tell you the things I wish someone had told me when I first picked up a loaded gun.
The gun I’m talking about today is COVID. But mine was Lyme, or maybe Epstein Barr, or Ross River Fever or Strep or Mycoplasma. They’re not COVID, but they may as well be.
So, COVID might kill you. That’s undisputed. But it’s also undisputed that many people who get COVID won’t die.
That’s what you’re probably thinking. If I get it, it’s unlikely that I’ll die. So, what’s the biggy?
My friend, there are things that you don’t know right now. Because you think these are the only two things that will happen. Catch COVID and you will most likely not die. You will get sick, it might not be too bad, or it might be bad. Still, mild or terrible, you’ll get through it. And then you will get better.
You might be right. I hope you are.
But what if you’re not.
The thing about Russian Roulette is, you just don’t know until you play the game. The only way to be 100% safe is don’t play. But you think the only bullet is the one marked DEATH. What loads that bullet into the gun? Things you might already recognise – age, blood type, racial heritage, an existing medical condition, being overweight, being stressed or run down. You might not have any of those risk factors. That most likely removes the DEATH bullet from the chamber. So, you think you’re perfectly safe. Even if you catch COVID.
But what if you’re like me, and the time you pulled the illness trigger there were two live rounds in the barrel?
I want to tell you about the bullet that might have your name on it that isn’t marked DEATH. This bullet is marked MORBIDITY.
MORBIDITY means the condition of being diseased. It’s the equivalent of a bomb going off inside you, and the bomb doesn’t kill you, but it changes you forever. A part of you dies, or is maimed, or never again works the way it was supposed to. That’s what COVID can do. That’s the other bullet that might be waiting for you, if you engage with this illness.
What loads that second bullet? Genetic pre-dispositions. Biochemical reactions specific to your own body. Pre-existing trauma. A perfect storm of bad luck and bad timing. Things you don’t see when you look in the mirror. Things your doctor doesn’t know are there. Things you usually only find out about AFTER the bomb goes off and you didn’t die, but you never got your old pre-illness life back either.
Because, you see, MORBIDITY is a real risk with COVID. It’s the bullet that might have your name on it. The one you’ll regret engaging with for the rest of your life. It’s the fire you walk into, and crawl out the other side forever broken.
Go talk to anyone in the chronic illness community – people with Lyme and CFS/ME and chronic fatigue and post-viral syndrome – they’ll tell you what it is like to live a half-life, to have to give up on your dreams, to live within your limits, to live with pain and fatigue and diminishment, where everything you took for granted is suddenly gone, or suddenly so much harder than it used to be. Let them tell you how hard it is to get diagnoses and medical support. How they are often not taken seriously, and how their lives become tied to diets and supplements and one new hope after another in an endless quest to regain the health they once took for granted. If they have money, or a way to support themselves. Let them tell you about the career losses, the job losses, the income losses. The loss of friendships and the breakdown of marriages. The spiralling down into despair and depression and mere survival. The fact that suddenly you only have room in your life to work and sleep, or parent and sleep, or half-ass everything and sleep. How it becomes a rolling train-wreck of illness after illness as your immune system and normal health responses pack it in. Of how, one-by-one, new things break or stop working in you. It sucks. So bad. Imagine how you feel with a bad dose of flu – exhausted, ache-y, not thinking straight, in pain. Even if you look fine. Then live every day for the rest of your life like that while having to do normal day-to-day stuff.
Still think it would never happen to you? It probably won’t, but it might. And what if it did? What then? How would you cope? How would your family cope?
Let me tell you about some of my clients and their families who have been hit by that second COVID bullet. The bullet you’re not thinking about right now. These are real people. I just changed their names. Only two of them were in the ‘risk’ (their age) category for COVID.
Lionel – 42 Was a fit, healthy man. Non-smoker. Ex military special forces. Own business. Total COVID non-believer. Married with two kids. Stroke. Permanent lung damage. Will never drive again. Can no longer work. Severe depression and anxiety.
Max – 50 Health Care Front Line. Went from perfectly healthy to epilepsy, permanent lung and heart damage and can no longer drive a car, play sport, exercise or work in the same capacity. He has a wife and young kids who depend on him for everything, because his wife is unwell. He was never sick enough to go to hospital.
Jessica – 54 Got sick on an overseas holiday. School maths teacher, and yoga teacher. Was on a ventilator and in hospital for months. Now has post-COVID dementia. Her family have been advised to put her into care.
Malcolm – 72 and Cindy – 68. Got sick after returning from overseas holiday. Caregivers to their three grandchildren whose mum died from an accidental drug overdose. Malcolm was hospitalised for three months. He now has brain damage and dementia from COVID and has not been able to rehab enough to walk or regain continence. Must be placed in care. Cindy has lost the use of her left arm after a stroke, and has liver, eye and lung damage. Must also be placed in care. Grandchildren will be placed in foster care.
Adam – 36 Finance executive. Triathlete. Was never ill enough to be in hospital. Never recovered, and it has been six months. Has severe exhaustion, heart damage and has lost lung capacity. Cognitive function poor and cannot concentrate or understand the work he was doing pre-COVID. Doctors advise he may never return to the work he did before and have advised him that due to heart damage he cannot exercise and will never compete again.
Lizzie – 28 Chiropractor. Never been vaccinated. Vegetarian and life-long health nut. Lost right arm due to blood clot. Balance affected because she also lost toes due to circulation loss while on ventilator.
Brian – 12 Needs a lung transplant.
Martin – 28 Professional dancer with an international dance company. Night sweats, fevers, joint pain, chest pain, abdominal pain, major bowel issues, food allergies, fecal incontinence. Yep, he has to wear adult diapers. At 28. He had no symptoms when he first tested positive after coming back from an overseas work gig but then crashed after the first week. He was in hospital for one night for observation and then spend the rest of his time being monitored in a hotel room. He has gradually worsened since then. Doctors are unsure what to do for him. He has been ill like this since late February.
Amy – 26 Nurse, nutritionalist, and part-time student preparing to enter medicine next year to become a functional medicine doctor. Super health conscious. She has been unable to complete full shifts even though she was originally declared COVID free and fit to return to work. Since then she has migraines, confusion, seizures, tremors, depression, body pain and cognitive difficulties. She has now been assessed as having heart damage and brain damage that may prevent her from returning to work or study. She was in hospital for two days but not ventilated. She’s suicidal.
And I spoke with a client tonight who brought her 50 year old mother home from rehab last week after a six week stint in hospital with COVID. Her mother keeps asking to ‘go back to her old house’ (no-one knows what she means) and she cannot remember how to put her arms into a shirt without help. She also wanders the house and keeps standing in front of the open refrigerator. Until she became sick her mum was a branch bank manager. She was the matriarch of her extended family and the one everyone leaned on. They are taking her back to the doctor tomorrow for them to assess her. They say their mum is not the same woman who went to hospital. They are all deeply worried about her future.
That might never be you.
But it might.
There’s no way to know unless you actually get COVID. And by then it will be too late.
So, take it from me, a battle-hardened chronic illness warrior who has 35 years of misery under her belt and who would give it all back in an instant, despite the lessons I’ve been able to take and the positive story I have had to make from the clusterf*ck that is my life. It is better to not get COVID in the first place. Because, what if that second bullet DOES have your name on it?
If there’s an outbreak where you are, shelter in place or wear a mask, socially distance, wash your hands often and avoid crowded places. Respect government health guidelines. Move away from people who cough or sneeze. Limit your opportunity for exposure. And be considerate of all of the people who are not as strong and healthy as you, and who KNOW that the Universe loaded both bullets for them.
You might be young, fit and healthy, or one of those people who has never had a sick day in your life. It’s not worth it. Don’t take the risk. Russian Roulette is a fool’s game. There is no vaccine for this. No cure. No simple treatment. No magic preventative. There may never be one.
Take it from me. I’d rather you never know, than for me to have to welcome you to the sad club to which I belong, of people whose lives have been forever changed by illnesses from which they never really recover.
Here’s what I do know.
Life is fraught with risk. Things don’t always go to plan. There is no magic that can make you immune to life’s suffering. It might not be you, but it might just as well be you that this happens to as to anyone else. I know that even if you don’t catch COVID this global pandemic is hard for so many people right now, as businesses close and work dries up, and while we have to socially isolate, and as people’s mental health suffers and tensions rise. I know, and I understand, because those of us who walked into the fire have been privately living in that place already for a very long time. You just never knew, because most of us are invisible.
If you have not walked into the fire that is COVID, stay away.
Anyone who has walked through the fire and been burned will tell you not to follow them. You’d be a fool not to listen.
But COVID isn’t real, I hear some of you say. Please, don’t talk to me of conspiracies. Don’t tell me how this is all about big pharma or pedophile rings or alien lizards. Don’t tell me that this is about voting Republican or Democrat. Don’t tell me that this could all be prevented or easily cured with essential oils or Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin and zinc, or veganism or mantras or yoga. Do you know how many of us in the silent army that is chronic illness have been there, done that and got the t-shirt? How much time and money and effort we have put into all manner of preventatives and cures and yet here we are, still unwell and never fixed by any of it – maybe just made a little less limpy.
Don’t speak that sh*t to me while frontline health care workers are dying for you, and putting themselves in harms way every day for you, and government employees and emergency services workers and first responders run themselves ragged trying to support and care for you and solve problems you aren’t even aware of, and lab technicians and researchers work around the clock to find potential treatments and vaccines and ANYTHING that can help, and while families are burying their loved ones by the thousands and lives are being ruined, and too many people are joining us in the fire, to walk out burned beyond recognition and never able to go back to the way they were before.
COVID is a loaded gun. Don’t ever doubt that.
Stay safe. Take care of yourselves and each other. Nicole x