By Ryan Whitt
Regardless of how you live, the COVID-19 virus has impacted your life heavily. People are having to take everything that they do out of the house and figure out how they can cram it all into their living room.
We’ve seen our fathers make conference calls from the dinner table, we’ve had to cancel our spring breaks, we’ve had to quit our jobs or learn to work from home. We’ve seen how the lives of the average, everyday kind of person has been affected by this.
But what most people haven’t seen is how it affects those people who are already living at home. Those who already can’t get up and leave the house, who have lost their jobs and who live sedentary lives from home.
I live in a household full of disabled people. People who haven’t worked in 10 years or more, who already are scared to death of the flu— let alone the coronavirus. And this virus has affected their lives just as heavily as it has yours, or perhaps even more.
My father, Claude “Nick” Whitt, is 43 and diagnosed with multiple muscle diseases that he has struggled with since he was a child. He was in a car accident 10 years ago that shattered a disc in his spinal cord, nearly paralyzing him. He has a pacemaker, has been gouged on a bull’s horn at a family farm, and has probably had about three or four dozen other major injuries, surgeries, and just generally not good things happen to him over the course of his life. And now he can add “lived through a pandemic” to his long list of mishaps.
Nick spends his days with his dog Whiskey watching YouTube, and spends the few nights he is well enough to get out throwing darts at bars around our area— some of the only activities he can manage to do anymore. Overall, he lives a very homely life in which he leaves the house as little as possible and has for a decade or more.
But, despite how little he leaves the house, this quarantine has affected his life as well. On his monthly grocery shopping trip, the few things he needs from the store were almost entirely out of stock, and since food stamps can’t be used at Taco Bell, he has been stuck praying for grocery stores to stock up soon.
Nonessential businesses have been closed in this quarantine so the dart nights at local bars, the one sport Nick can still enjoy and play, is no longer available. Lucky for him, we keep a dart board at home, so he isn’t totally stir-crazy. But having the one reason for him to leave the house taken away still weighs heavily on his mind.
While we have been stuck inside for only a few weeks and (hopefully) will only be for a few months max, he has been stuck inside for a fourth of his life. Those dart nights might seem insignificant for people like us— yeah, none of us can play our favorite sports or activities right now. But it was one of the few things he has left after all of his injuries and illnesses.
Even that isn’t the worst thing for him. Hospitals have had to take measures against the coronavirus as well, and are refusing treatment not deemed an emergency or coronavirus related. Recently Nick woke up to a serious injury in his shoulder caused by his muscle diseases. He quickly took his pain medication and went to the hospital so they could give him treatment.
Upon arrival, he was turned away. Whatever was happening to him did not fit within their parameters for an emergency. The hospital staff had no choice but to tell him to go home and hope for this all to pass or for his injuries to fix themselves. He was told he can only be treated if his injury, which we still cannot identify, becomes life-threatening. So for the past week Nick has been living in intense pain, unable to get treatment.
In addition, he can no longer go to his monthly doctor’s appointments, which means his doctor cannot prescribe him a refill for his daily medications. Instead, Nick is having to ration his medication as best as he can to make it last throughout this month, and possibly even next month and the month after.
The longer this pandemic lasts, the more dangerous it is for my father and people like him— people who already live in self-isolation, people who are disabled and living on a thread. Every passing day is a day they cannot refill their medication, cannot get treatment, cannot have important surgeries.
I urge everyone who reads this to stay inside, wash their hands, and help in any way they can to reduce the spread of this virus. If you are not worried for you and your family’s safety, please find it in your hearts to be worried for mine.