Since Ralph was released from the hospital for a bacterial infection, Ralph and I have been living a miniature version of the chaos the larger world is experiencing. Without going into details, he has been more or less bedridden, getting up for the bathroom, occasional meals (though mostly eating in bed), follow up doctor visits and his daily infusions.
Meanwhile we sold our farm and I turned 70. Both events should have been moments to stop and reflect, but reflection will have to come later. I was too busy packing, working, and caring for Ralph. As for Ralph, he witnessed the sale without emotion—he had to be at the closing to sign off—and didn’t really notice my birthday at all.
So for two and half weeks we’ve muddled along living in a bare house we no longer own—a friend stayed with Rick and got him to his infusion while I did a fast drive down and back for the scheduled furniture move. The plan was that Ralph would finish his antibiotics and get his final doctor check out Monday and we would drive to Nola on Thursday (Tomorrow as I write this).
Meanwhile the corona virus began to spread. But we have been more or less isolated anyway so not paying a lot of attention. There was talk among my friends whether to go to lunch for my birthday/farewell gathering on Saturday. Four of us went for dumplings and fist bumped goodbye. We all were still joking then.
But by Monday no one I the country was joking. But while most people were concentrating on the virus, Ralph and I were focused more narrowly on his back. Saturday, the morning of my birthday Ralph had begun complaining of a backache He doesn’t remember doing anything to himself and I witnessed nothing unusual. But by Sunday morning he was in serious pain that only got worse.
On Monday at our appointment with Dr. P. we learned the blood work from Sunday showed a small rise in his white blood count we hoped had to do with Ralph back pain. Dr. P suspected an injury rib and sent us for an x-ray. He also sent us for more blood work this morning so he’d know the results before we leave tomorrow. But he wasn’t worried.
So when everyone was hunkering down to self-isolate we were zipping very slowly from one medical office to another. At home Ralph slept, of course, as I packed up the leftovers that couldn’t be moved until the last minute.
Well there is no broken rib, but the x-ray showed inflammation in Ralph lung. (And yet, the nodules in his lungs three weeks ago are still present.) Not a lot of inflamaton and only in a small corner but too much to discount completely. The blood works shows his white blood count is back to normal but some other measure, I didn’t understand what, is higher than it should be. Although he has no symptoms, Dr. P. mentioned the possibility that Ralph might have pneumonia. His voice was almost too calm. I responded with equal, fake calm. Pneumonia is not a good thing to have ever, but right now if you’re a 73-year-old man with early onset Alzheimer’s, it is a particularly not good thing to have.
We are still leaving in the morning. After talking not only to Dr. P. but also to our doctor/friend Andy and our nurse practitioner daughter in Nola, the consensus is to go. Ralph has medical appointments scheduled there. We can self-quarantine one place as easily as another. And we can’t keep camping out in someone else’s house.
I am by turns crazed and sanguine. Since no one is seeing anyone, leaving friends feels almost anti-climatic. As if I am not leaving the world I’ve inhabited since I was 21 years old. Ralph, on the other hand, is blasé. When his back hurts it hurts, when it doesn’t he can’t remember it ever did. His cognitive impairment, has not bounced back to its old plateau. His life list is out the window. He can’t remember if he’s eaten, if it’s morning or afternoon. If I say something about a virus, he looks at me struggling, and then his face lights up. “Oh, you mean about “Sars. Is that a problem again.”
Our little personal drama feels very important and scary to me of course, but we are really quite lucky. Actually all of us are. We are in our own homes (or will be) with decent food (and toilet paper) available. We have a supply of water, working utilities. We have means to communicate and be entertained.
Ok, I am not this cheerful, but it’s worth a shot.