October 11, 2020

In My Shoes

I'm WillowjakMama!

My blog started as a way to document my journey to wellness, but turned into a place to be inspired by others through our collective messy & authentic stories. Now it's my favourite place to be.

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I stood at my dying grandfather’s bedside on September 29th, 2020 (my mother’s birthday), unsure how to feel. When I saw him last, in March of 2020, he was as chipper as any 89 year old man with metastasized prostate cancer could be. When I talked to him on the phone four weeks prior, I could have said the same. Yet, here I was standing over him, mask on, unable to even hold his hand in one of his most trying moments as he struggled to form a sentence. Now that the cancer had invaded his brain, along with the rest of his body, even the opening of his eyes seemed excruciating.

It was at that point, almost comically, my grandmother abruptly stated: “Mike’s dead!”.

Mike was my uncle, he had Alzheimer’s. He had passed away in his sleep the night prior and my grandmother wanted to wait for us to wake my grandfather before she would tell my sister and I.

I couldn’t believe it; while seeing my grandfather for one of the last times and I realized that I didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye to another important family member. I wouldn’t be able to attend his funeral, as this violates public health measures.

What has our world come to? I missed my last opportunities to see my grandfather truly conscious, and I missed seeing my uncle Mike alive because I was following direction from the government regarding social distancing. Yet when I open Instagram I see clips of students from Queen’s, Western, and other universities partying as if people aren’t dying by the truckload.

Are we really headed for a second wave of COVID-19? Turn on the television to any Canadian news station and you will quickly realize that we are rapidly headed for a second lockdown. Especially in Ontario, as daily cases reach record highs, the chances of a second wave change from possible to imminent. What is it that we don’t understand about COVID-19 that is preventing people from following relatively foolproof health guidelines? The vast majority appear somehow to be under the impression that ‘it can’t happen to them.’

Back to February 24th, 2020. I was mid-trip with my University team in the Mexican heat, preparing to dive into a competition against multiple countries. This was one of the most anticipated moments of my life to that point. The beginning of the new normal here in Canada hadn’t yet begun, however, in Mexico City, I became acquainted with what treatment was like for a suspected COVID-19 patient.

At the time, every medical official south of the US border had no idea how to treat me. I required blood samples upwards of 8 times a day. Antibiotics and antivirals administered intravenously so strong, that they changed the colour of my arm for a full week after treatment was over and left my limbs throbbing. Masks, everyone wore these masks; I felt so alone, yet I was always watched. Completely ‘isolated’ in a hospital bed for the first 48 hours; forced to urinate into a milk jug, in front of a glass window, while 6 doctors observed. My retinue. I wasn’t treated horribly as far as bedside care goes, my nurses were quite nice (reference the photo, taken by my lovely nurse Mariana – every young soldier’s dream). However, I could see the fear in the eyes of these same nurses and doctors as they entered my room to let me know that they “still couldn’t tell what was wrong” after my 3rd COVID swab.

I laid in bed for five days as my team went on to compete, days and nights passing by only to be interrupted by the occasional visit from a lavishly decorated Mexican General and his entourage, or a Canadian Forces Mexican Embassy official. After 5 days of oxygen masks and IV’s, I was released. To this day, I have never received confirmation if I had or didn’t have the infamous Coronavirus, but I might as well have for all the suffering I endured.

It’s been a long time since that experience, yet not much has changed. People keep dying, I remain locked in my house awaiting some kind of change.

And here we are. October, facing another potential lockdown situation. Yet, nothing has come of all of this yet! I believe this is largely due to the lack of awareness of the severity of this virus and lacking the empathy for fellow citizens to follow the necessary guidelines. I stay hopeful, because that’s who I am. I’m hopeful that we can get to a point where we all agree on the betterment of our society over the betterment of one individual, which in turn is the betterment of none. But, we will have to see. Only time will tell. I believe our fate is already destined for us in any situation, and COVID is no exception. Until then, I’ll keep fighting the good fight, living my life with my fellow citizens in mind along the way.

We are left with a choice now: Do we continue down this selfish path, risking countless lives for a semblance of ‘normalcy’ or do we band together and prevent what happened to me becoming the norm? Or worse? Countless people have died to this point, senselessly. To me, the answer is obvious.

My grandfather wouldn’t have had to spend all this time alone, had selfishness not dominated our minds through this crisis. He won’t be the last one to experience this, as the virus continues to spread like wildfire. Perhaps, I feel this way because I had to experience it (and I was one of the lucky ones), but hopefully you would feel this way too if you placed yourself in my shoes.

Nicholas M.

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Hi, I'm Stacey.
Welcome to the
Willowjak Blog 

My blog started as a way to document my journey to wellness, but turned into a place to be inspired by others through our collective messy & authentic stories. We chat about themes that are often ignored and voices that aren't often given a chance at the mic. Now it's my favourite place to be. 

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