Welcome to a new QWF series ‘Chronicling the Days’, specifically for this strange uneasy time of coronavirus and pandemic, of social distancing and self isolation, of lockdown and quarantine. We’re inviting writers in Quebec in April 2020 to submit a story – up to 500 words – of a single day at this time, because while we’re all living through this time, we know that we’re not all living through it in the same way. To stay connected – to know how we’re getting on. Every story is valid.
If you’re interested in submitting a piece, please see the QWF Writes website for further details.
What’s the story of your days?
This piece is by Constantin Polychronakos, writing on April date, 2020.
Call it an opportunity to catch up with all the things I have been putting off. Call it an opportunity to meditate on the illusion of certainty. But what am I doing today, cocooning all alone in the safety of my apartment, phoning, e-mailing and Zooming with my non-urgent patients? Is singing So Long Marianne out the window the best I can do? I should have been in the front lines, in the emergency room, in the intensive care, fighting COVID in a hail of droplets. I know I am invincible! I know I can beat the coronavirus, I have already vanquished it, caught it by the horns and wrestled it to the ground, with only a few bruises to show for it.
Wind back to the 25thof November, when Corona was still only something you get served in a bar (remember?). The public transit fanatic that I am, I took several rides packed like a sardine in the Beijing subway system, then dined in a restaurant so crowded that my Chinese colleague and I had to share our table with total strangers. One has to travel to East Asia to appreciate what “crowded” means. I spent the last night at an airport hotel packed with guests, half of whom were from Wuhan (or so it now feels), before flying back to Montréal. Ten days later, still three weeks before the first vague signals from China, I came down with the worst (by far) respiratory infection of my adult life. Two days in bed, not taking antipyretics, concentrating on how the same cytokines that gave me high fever, aches and pains and made me almost too weak to get off the bed, were the ones that were demolishing the virus. No cough medicine, either, of course! How foolish to suppress the most powerful mechanism our body has for clearing respiratory infections.
In 48 hours, I was off the bed and feeling back to normal, although some coughing continued for a couple of weeks. Still coughing, I flew to Vancouver, to spend the holidays with my daughter and 2-year old granddaughter both of whom, within days, had the same symptoms—but much milder and shorter. The kid had only fever for an evening, back to her usual bundle of joy and energy the following morning.
By the time we heard that COVID-19 had been kicking around in China since probably October, it was too late to get myself tested for the virus. Antibodies last much longer, so I will get the blood test as soon as I can do it without bumping off someone else who needs it more urgently. I need to know. Perhaps I am invincible! Perhaps I can donate my immune blood to save a life. Perhaps I can be re-assigned to the front line. I need to know. At the very least, I am a serious contender for The First Canadian Case.