THE OPPENHEIMER REPORT (September 28, 2020)
I watched a video the other day, taken shortly before everything changed, when none of us had any idea what was to come. This pandemic has been a wake-up call for us all, perhaps more for some than others. In our current state of emergency, I am astounded by all the zealotry surrounding the issues, on both sides. Everybody has an opinion about how to proceed, but I take my cues from health care experts. Hunters Bay Radio volunteer Chris Occhiuzzi wrote an interesting article the other day, trying to put this pandemic into perspective. In it, he suggested that the zealots, on both sides, should tone down the rhetoric. I agree. For my part, I’m trying to follow common sense directives in order to protect myself, my family, and to keep the virus from spreading to the weakest and most vulnerable in our population.
My wife Shauna reposted an article the other day on Facebook about the nature of viruses, and the gist of the article is that, 6 months later, we still don’t know all that much about COVID-19. The article is worth reading. You can take from it what you will. If what you conclude is that “Science doesn’t know” well, time will tell who has made the right decisions. I’m just as concerned and skeptical as the rest of you. What concerns me are the potential long-term effects of this virus. I do know something about chronic illness, from the perspective of a caregiver myself, and I’d like to comment about that.
Illness is, by its very nature, isolating and discouraging. Anyone who is living with it will likely agree. Shauna suffers from a chronic pain condition. In her twenties, she almost died while being hospitalized for 2 months due to a severe case of food poisoning. She contracted Campylobacter after eating chicken from a fast food restaurant chain. That dangerous bacteria, together with the powerful antibiotics needed to kill it, virtually ripped apart her digestive tract. As a result, she now has Crohn’s Disease and a myriad of related complications. I suspect that it is her compromised gut that has led to so many of her other immunity problems over the years. Regardless of the cause, she has been very sick for a long time. In the early days of our marriage, we were more active, but we were often forced, last minute, to cancel our plans, for travel and social engagements. Friends and family were often disappointed with us because we were always late or unreliable. To our frustration, many of her symptoms were unable to be successfully treated by doctors. The immune system is probably the least understood function of the human body. I’ve read 5 or 6 books on the subject, and I am even more confused now than I was before reading them. To those who have told us that “it’s all in your head – there’s nothing really wrong with Shauna”, I say walk a mile in our shoes and then offer your opinions. Ultimately, our decision to leave downtown Toronto, move up north, and to build our primary residence on the site of the Taylor summer cottage, was based on the need to live in a cleaner, quieter environment. We have attempted to move away from the judgment, and the obligations we could not fulfill. Everyone has an opinion about what makes us sick and what cures us. Believe me, one becomes a little less all-knowing and judgemental when chronic illness invades your life or that of someone you love.
This novel coronavirus is still relatively new with increasingly complicated side effects, for example, the long-haul syndrome. When venerated medical professionals are imploring us to be vigilant, I am inclined to believe them. That is my choice. To complicate matters further, a few years ago, Shauna was rushed to Toronto and hospitalized again after suffering a severe neurological attack, and was ultimately treated with steroids for a year. As a result of the 2 major attacks to her health, my wife is immunocompromised, and I live in constant fear of bringing a potentially deadly virus into our home. We have lived with chronic illness for the past 28 years. It has changed the life of the person I love the most, and it has changed our life as a couple. Some of our contemporaries have begun to contend with serious illness in their own lives. As their social lives suffer, they are beginning to relate to what we have already been through and better understand what isolation feels like. Unless you’ve experienced chronic illness firsthand, you might not understand the pain you could cause yourself or spread to someone else. I hope you never learn. May I suggest you consider the possibility that ignorance is not bliss. Believe me, you want to avoid chronic illness at all costs. It is at times baffling to me that the generation before mine, often referred to as the "greatest generation", made huge sacrifices during the 6 year long World War II and yet, in a period of only 6 months, many people these days cannot agree to make some fairly basic sacrifices in order to fight a common and deadly enemy. It seems like common sense to me: choose to practise physical distancing, wash your hands thoroughly and often, avoid large gatherings, and wear a mask when in public. Then again, these days, common sense seems to be on injured reserve. It's no wonder that those elders who are still with us, are disappointed and afraid.
Written by Jamie Oppenheimer ©2020 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED