Its hard to believe that just a little over a week ago I was writing about COVID-19, anxiety, and parenting a medically fragile child. It turns out COVID-19 was the least of our concerns. For my son, it was plain old pneumonia landed him back in the ICU.
Eight days ago my son was ambulanced to hospital. He’s been in the ICU on a ventilator ever since.
It is an unusual time to be spending your days in the ICU. With each passing day the number of bulletins about COVID increase. The daily rhythm of the ward is disrupted and uncertain. The wall next to the nursing station is papered with news, policies, announcements, and recommended best practices. It has a big, hastily scrawled sign announcing “MUST READ: COVID NEWS” taped to the top of the collection.
My son has been moved twice in the last two days as the ICU is reconfigured, and reconfigured again, for an influx of COVID patients. My visiting has been strictly limited, but in an act of compassion I am still one of the very rare non-staff members allowed into the building to spend time with my son, and discuss his care. One day the ICU doctor started the discussion about my son’s care by saying, “it will be nice to talk about something not-COVID, because after this it’s all I’m going to talk about”.
My son is complex. His health is fragile. His lungs are compromised. But at the moment he is showing signs of improvement. The antibiotics seem to be slowly, slowly clearing the pneumonia that has so firmly taken hold of his right lung. There is hope he will be weaned off the ventilator, but there is no chance of that happening for several more days.
We have lived in the shadow of his possible death since birth, but we remain hopeful that this admission is not his “time”. We hope that we will have more years with him to enjoy his infectious laugh, his love of hockey games, bubbles, and musical cartoons.
The ICU team knows my son and are wholeheartedly dedicated to his care. The fact that he lives with significant disabilities has never been an issue. We have never been made to feel that my son’s care and life was “less important” because of those significant disabilities. It has never even been hinted that his fragile health made him less worthy of intensive and aggressive care. Yet I worry that a massive influx of COVID-19 patients into the ICU could change that conversation. The former ethics student in me knows that once utilitarianism takes over, people like my son can be seen as less deserving of scarce resources such as a ventilator. The stories from Italy about doctors being forced into such decision-making, particularly when combined with Facebook posts cavalierly suggesting COVID isn’t more serious than the flu and that social distancing is an overreaction, are nothing short of panic inducing.
Because you are staying home, “social distancing”, staying healthy, and therefore staying OUT of hospital means that the ventilator keeping my son alive will remain available to him. You are giving my very vulnerable son a fighting chance of surviving this bout of pneumonia. The fact that you are staying at home is making a very real difference to someone. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.