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image of COVID-19 virus

My father-in-law died last night just around the same time the President was
boarding Marine One on his way to be hospitalized for the same disease. The
timing was a surreal juxtaposition. My father-in-law lived in Georgia where the
Governor famously sued the Mayor of Atlanta for instituting a mask requirement.
This was one of the early signs of politics colliding with public health with all of
its misguided messiness.


By all accounts my father-in-law followed all the rules. He was socially
distancing and wearing his mask in public. His circle of friends was also being
compliant. But somewhere at some time somehow the virus found a crack in the
opening and that was it. Ten days ago he had a low grade fever and some nasal
stuffiness and went to get tested. That was the beginning of the end. He was
admitted to the hospital with a full understanding that he did not want to be
intubated and placed on a ventilator. He was a smart man and knew the chances
of survival if that were his only choice.


He had enough things going against him...his age, the fact that he was a man with
a history of heart disease. But those things aside, it is the virus that killed him.
And by doing so, COVID-19 robbed Richard of a good death. He was immediately
cut off from family and loved ones. Health proxy decisions were made by his
adult children from a distance. In the final hours of his life no one was able to hold
his hand or whisper “I love you.”


I believe that there are good deaths. Those deaths that can be celebrated as a life
well lived, with close ones sitting vigil, telling old stories and holding a patient’s
hand. My father had a death like that and I have sat at the bedsides of countless
patients while they have been able to exit this world with grace. But COVID robs
people of this dignity. It ruins the chances for a good death. It is the ultimate
cruelty.


So while we all pull for our President to recover, let’s root for each other too.
Let’s start taking care of each other. We have a saying out here in Montana when
it comes to social distancing. Please stay one grizzly bear apart. And please wear
your mask. We’re all in this together.