Last Tuesday seems like a lifetime ago, but it was only 10 days. It started out like any normal crazy busy day before a trip, except there were two suitcases at the foot of my bed because I was getting ready to take two international trips, so I had one suitcase for each trip set up.
The first was a one-week mission trip to the Dominican Republic with Dublin AM Rotary members. One of the members is a dentist who had spearheaded this mission trip last year along with some of his staff. The mission trip this year started out as a dental mission and became so much more when Jim Burness took over as the organizer and asked if other Rotary members wanted to join the dental group and volunteer to do other jobs. Nineteen members, spouses and dental workers signed up, with airfares purchased, housing paid for and two plus suitcases full of donations to take with us.
The second trip was a three week photography tour to Patagonia in Chile and Argentina that I had wanted to go on for the last three years, and I was so excited — I was finally going to see the beautiful mountains of Patagonia.
I had my tickets for both trips purchased, and I even decided to splurge and go business class for the 18 hour trip to Santiago – 24 hours with layovers. I contacted a business class consolidator who got me a very reduced fare, but the catch was that I had to go five days early in order to save about $1500 on the airfare. I was concerned about going early because it would mean coming back from the Dominican Republic with two days to unpack, wash clothes and repack anything that was needed in my Patagonia suitcase. I decided to take the chance, because I wanted to have my cake and eat it too – to serve humanity in the DR, to save money on airfare and to serve my own desires to see more of South America than just the national parks.
It’s hard to put the pieces and timing together in my head ten days later, but to the best of my recollection, everything changed drastically that Tuesday and the world turned upside down – my world and the outside world. We all knew about the corona virus in China, but it was a world away…it wasn’t coming here to my secluded and protected part of the world, so we didn’t need to worry about it, right? Nope, not so! It was not only coming here, in an instant, it was here, and people were starting to panic. The stock market had been headed down for about a week, but that day it reacted and headed downward even more so. The government was talking about quarantines; cruise ships were being quarantined; cases of COVID19 were taking over the news.
On Tuesday morning, I got an email in the morning from the organizer of the trip, Jim, who said that he and his wife were not going to be able to go. He is a financial planner and said he needed to be here for his clients who were panicking about their investments, and his wife needed to be here because she is Director of Public Information for the city of Dublin. I gave it some thought all day, and wavered back and forth…should I stay, should I cancel? I watched the emails flying in with member after member deciding to cancel, whether because of an illness they had or because of the need to be here for work or safety. After seeing an email from one participant that he was worried about being quarantined coming back in, I realized that could happen to me and I wouldn’t be able to make my trip to Patagonia. By the end of the day, I decided that I too would have to cancel my trip to the DR.
I was disappointed, but also relieved because I didn’t have to worry about the short turnaround time between trips. Whew, I don’t think I will ever do that again.
But I was still planning on going to Patagonia…or at least I thought I was. A few days later, on Thursday afternoon, I got an email from our trip organizer Christoph that although the WHO had declared a pandemic, and the world seemed to be going through uncertain times, he was already in South America and he was still proceeding with the workshop. He gave us the dollar figures we would have to pay if we canceled and said it was up to us. At that point, I was unsure about canceling.
Then Friday morning, I woke up to an email from Christoph that said
I was alarmed to read that Argentina is suspending all flights from the USA and other countries and imposing 14 day self quarantine for people who arrive in Argentina from the USA and other countries with sustained transmission.
He went on to say that things were “clearly problematic now”, and he suggested that I contact the embassy in Argentina and Chile to get updates. Geez, what an understatement.
I didn’t know how to take this news. I was shocked, scared, panicked, in tears, and ran the gamut of emotions. But in light of the mandate from Argentina, I really had no choice but to cancel. I told Christoph that I would keep my bag packed in case things changed, but clearly that was a long shot.
He said he was still going ahead with the trip as long as the two other participants were going – one from Canada and the other from Australia.
To make a long story short for this piece, the other two participants wrestled with the decision and finally canceled. A few days later, Argentina closed all of its national parks – where we were going, and then Chile closed its borders. The decision was clearly made for all of us once that happened.
Also that Tuesday, I had made three doctors appointments – with a hand doctor, a hip doctor and a dermatologist. My hip has been bothering me for three years now, ever since a personal trainer I was working with pushed me too hard and I injured my hips and shoulders. My wrist started hurting me about six months ago. And I noticed a growth on my forehead that didn’t look right.
The first appointment of the day was the hand doctor. To begin, before I even saw the doc, they took me in for xrays. I asked why they did that because I thought it strange to xray me before she even saw me, but the tech said it was protocol. Ok, I said – just do it. After the xrays, I saw a doctor who said he was a fellow (a doctor who is training in a specialty). He was really nice and explained to me what the xrays showed. He said I have a rare disease called Kienbock’s in which the lunate bone in the wrist dies from lack of blood to it and therefore causes pain in the wrist. On top of that, he said I have arthritis in my thumb which is causing pain and radiating pain into my wrist. Then the doctor, Marlo VanSteyn, came in and went over the same info and did some of the same testing on my wrist. She explained some things I could do to help the pain, including physical therapy, hot and cold compresses, etc. She was so very kind and seemed so caring, that I took it all in with a smile. She even gave me a hug at the end of her visit.
After that appointment, I moved on, in the same practice, to see the hip doctor, Kelly Clem. Dr. Clem also did xrays after talking to me for a few minutes, and reviewed the xrays with me, saying that I have tendonopathy in my hips – which is a fancy word for saying that my tendons are inflamed and in pain because the muscles in my hips are not strong enough to support the tendons. So he prescribed physical therapy. He too was very kind and made the medicine go down a little easier.
After going home for lunch, I went on to my next appointment at the dermatologist. I told her that there was a growth on my back that was itching that I wanted removed and one on my forehead that didn’t look very good. She removed both growths for biopsy and said one looked like basal cell carcinoma and the other looked like a non-cancerous keratosis. I just got the call this morning that the one on my back is benign, but the growth on my forehead is basal cell carcinoma and that I would have to come back to have the rest of it removed.
That was quite a Tuesday for me, as well as the rest of the world.
A lot has happened in my life, in Ohio and in the world since last Tuesday.
The situation in the US, and particularly Ohio, has escalated and deteriorated all at the same time. The virus has escalated and the economy has deteriorated. The governor of Ohio and the Ohio Dept of Health have shut down most of the businesses, including restaurants, bars, beauty shops, etc. They have delayed voting, and requested a self quarantine for everyone that is not required to be out working. They suggest a 5-6 foot safety rule – to distance yourself from other people who may be carrying the virus. They are doing everything in their power to be proactive to prevent the spread of the virus. But you know all that.
What you don’t know is how I feel during this crisis. I feel a little alone and isolated, frustrated, scared and yet hopeful, sometimes frantic and other times at peace.
I don’t have to be stuck at home, but I’m doing it because I am 70, and the ohio dept of health has advised that we stay home. So despite the fact that I am strong, healthy and sure don’t feel like 70, here I am and have been for several days.
I spent several days working on canceling all of my trip plans – hotels, airlines, etc. So now that I’ve calmed down from the initial shock of having to cancel, I am working on my to do list.
I’ve unpacked my suitcases, and now I’ve been doing laundry, organizing my closet, cleaning the house, eating a lot, watching tv at night, listening to NPR, and chatting with my sister online and by text. I’ve checked in with some of my single friends and some other friends to make sure they are ok and don’t need anything. I am attending online yoga classes hosted by my yoga studio, and thank God for that, because they are keeping me calm, centered and peaceful. I’m walking between one and three miles a day. I’m also freaking out over the stock market and watching my money disappear.
I’m not going out anywhere. I ordered groceries online through Kroger on Tuesday morning, and they said my order wouldn’t be ready until Thursday night. So I picked my groceries up last night, and they only had half of what I ordered. The shortages are a little more difficult for me because I don’t eat meat or grains – so I cant stock up on pasta or rice like everyone else. I eat mostly fresh vegetables. Hopefully they will keep getting fresh food in stock.
And finally, I am trying to focus on developing some of my photos that I haven’t had the time to work on. And my goal is to get out into nature and take some photos – photography is my therapy in times of stress, and I often forget how calming it is for me.
It is going to get better, and my story is just one of millions of stories of difficult or trying times. I honestly feel that I am blessed to have my good health; I am grateful for two eyes that can see to take pictures. I am grateful for my dog Hannah who is a gift to me every day – she makes me laugh and gives me unconditional love. I am grateful that I had the money to go on those two trips, and feel that the cancellations had to be a blessing in disguise. And I am grateful for my friends and family who are there for me and support me.