2022: Opening Act

We’re only twelve days into 2022, and I already feel like I can say, “What a year.”

The holidays were wonderful. My father and brother stayed with us, and we had a lovely Christmas. The boys liked their gifts, and spent countless hours listening to their Pop-pop read them Spider-Man comics from the 1960s and decorating cookies with their uncle. My friend Lauren joined us for Christmas Day. Everyone went home happy and warm and fuzzy.

Right after New Year’s, we booked a month-long trip to Portugal for this summer. It took us a long time to decide whether we should do it, but NO REGRETS. We’ve got travel insurance and hopefully the pandemic will be in a downswing a few months from now.

Then it was like a train hit. Despite staying masked everywhere I went indoors and socially distanced outdoors, I got Covid-19, presumably the omicron variant. I had been to the store, some parks, and one restaurant: all masked and/or outdoor. Everyone else tested negative. I had intense fatigue and sinus congestion, but none of the scarier symptoms. Next, both kids got a horrific stomach virus: sudden and violent. It was so bad that we took them to urgent care to get a Zofran prescription. In the process, we found that one of them had a mild fever, which meant they were tested for flu and covid. And guess what? One of them was positive for neither, and the other was positive for both. Flu-rona-vomit!

Only one of two unvaccinated kids being positive seemed unlikely considering that our family had been together 24/7 for the past several weeks. Sure enough, lab testing came back showing that both kids had covid; only one had flu. That made more sense since we’ve all had our flu vaccines. My husband was still negative! We ended up with Zofran and Tamiflu and two very miserable children.

But as kids do, they bounced back within about 24 hours aside from some runny noses, and were pinballing off the walls and eating hamburgers the next day. Which was when my husband and I got the stomach virus, right on schedule. I was completely immobile with nausea for about 11 hours before my doctor finally came through with a Phenergan prescription. I spent most of the day shuffling between the couch and the kitchen, attempting to manage the kids by voice alone. My husband wasn’t hit as hard and did most of the childcare heavy lifting that day. It was bad. And I feel like we’re still not out of the woods: one of the kids’ congestion could turn into something more serious before they recover from whatever weird mix of viruses they’re fighting.

The worst part of the whole experience was the stomach-dropping feeling that no one was in charge. I don’t mean that “oh crap, I’m the adult here” feeling that every parent sometimes experiences. I’m talking about calling eight open urgent cares and having not one pick up the phone. Having a prescription called in and visiting five pharmacies an hour away before one of them actually has the medication you’ve been prescribed in stock. Knowing that you probably have covid and not being able to access a test for seventy-two hours because everything is either “closed for the weekend” (in the middle of a pandemic spike, seriously?!), or booked out into late the following week.

All I see and hear on the news is “get tested,” “be responsible,” “everyone is getting omicron, be careful,” “hospitals are full so don’t add to the burden,” etc., and yet there’s no visible effort to expand testing availability or healthcare capacity. Its disappointing at best, and when you’re in it, it’s frightening. My kids are doing fine right now, but all I can think about is what would happen if one of them suddenly worsened. It took us an entire day to get them into urgent care. Would an ER admit us? Would the hospital even have space? Would our pediatrician see a covid-positive child?

I also can’t help but think, like I have been since the pandemic began in 2020, of people less fortunate than we are. Despite getting paid year-round, my husband doesn’t officially start work until mid-January, so he has been able to care for our kids while they’re quarantined from childcare. We have two cars, so while it was a pain for us to visit several pharmacies for medicine, it wasn’t impossible. Ditto when we had to drive back and forth to urgent care three times to keep our spot in the long line. Not to mention the ~$200 we have paid out of pocket for the appointments, prescriptions, Gatorade, and food that you need to care for four sick people.

I’m not sure how much longer we can collectively “do” the pandemic like this. I can’t imagine how many people have been driven into debt, poverty, and unemployment by this situation. It feels depressing, hopeless, and above all disappointing. I can selfishly hope that my 2022 starts looking up soon, but plenty of people don’t have that hope.

tl;dr: We need to do better.

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