August 24, 2021
I haven’t had Covid. But it has taken the life of someone I cared for deeply and I want to share my experience, in case it saves someone else.
A month ago my ex husband went to Vegas. He usually went around the beginning of August each year to celebrate his birthday, an event he always looked forward to celebrating. He would tell anyone who would listen that his “birthday month” was coming in case they needed a reminder to still shop for a gift for him. He went a couple of weeks before his birthday this year. He posted many pictures from his Vegas trip that clearly showed how happy and vibrant he was.
By the time his birthday rolled around on August 10, he was in the hospital with Covid pneumonia. I have no idea where he contracted the virus and I never asked him if he knew either; it’s irrelevant. He joked that this year for his birthday he got out of the ER finally and into an ICU bed. He was trying to make light of it, but he was scared. He had been in ER treatment for over a week for his Covid illness, and had to stay there until the hospital had room to move him to ICU. The last texts we exchanged were two days after his birthday, on a Thursday night, when he told me his oxygen levels were improving slightly and he felt things were going in the right direction. He told me that he was expecting to be there as much as month, but that he felt he was doing better than most of the people in there. What I know about what happened to him in the hours that followed our last texts are from a recount of the events as shared by his daughter on her Facebook page:
Thursday night: he went into cardiac arrest. His right lung collapsed and he lost a lot of blood. They administer life-saving drugs and the nurse tells his kids to prepare for the worst.
Friday morning: they airlift him to a trauma center where he’ll go into emergency surgery. The previous hospital has done all they can for him.
Friday afternoon: he didn’t make it into surgery; his 02 levels were too low. A while later that day the surgery to repair the internal bleeding is done bedside, and the medical staff are hopeful. Later that day his heart stops for 12 minutes before it begins beating again (starting again as a result of a lot of medication and continuous chest compressions). It’s unknown what damage his body or brain have sustained with the prolonged absence of a heartbeat. He is placed in an induced coma and on a ventilator until his kids can get to Florida to be at his bedside.
Sunday afternoon: holding his hands while he’s comatose, his children make the decision to disconnect his life support and he leaves this life.
I’ve been asked many times since his death if he had other contributing health factors that could have worsened his body’s reaction to the Covid virus. To my knowledge, he did not. He was not diabetic. He did not have heart disease. In the 18 years I had been with him he had only had high blood pressure readings a couple of times, attributed to his morning coffee intake on those days. He did not smoke. To my knowledge he was not medicated for any health conditions (such high cholesterol or other conditions) that are all-too common. We were married until 2017, and these are the facts about his health as I knew them until then.
He wasn’t anti-vax in his beliefs. I can’t recall if he ever got a flu shot but he had no issue with Western medicine and taking prescriptions if they were prescribed to him. We had texted a few months ago just before the vaccine’s release about whether or not we would each be getting it. His exact words to me were: “You want the vaccine? I’m not sold on it yet. I feel for my parents, they should get protected. For me, meh. Not sure.” He went on to say that he thought he already had a mild case of Covid a few months before and thought he probably had some antibodies. (Note: you CAN get Covid more than once, and he had not been tested to confirm if he had any antibody protection.)
I’m not sharing my story to open a conversation with you about your thoughts on the vaccine. I’m not interested in debating it’s safety or efficacy because I’m not a doctor or scientist. I trust the experts in their respective fields to give the best advice they can given their extensive research and study in their field. I trust the people who have dedicated their lives and hundreds of thousands of dollars in their education to give me the right information about vaccines. I didn’t ask my dermatologist for her opinion on whether I should get vaccinated or not, and I’m not going to ask an epidemiologist to redo my boobs when they need an implant switch-out; I let the experts in their fields give me the information appropriate to the issue at hand. I was vaccinated as soon as I was able based on expert opinions and my own research. I know that this doesn’t mean I cannot still get Covid or pass it unknowingly to someone else, but it does greatly improve my immunity and increase my chances of having a mild or moderate case instead of a life-threatening one.
As I watch the horror on the news of over-full emergency rooms and ICU’s I feel that it looks other-worldly. I hate that my ex-husband’s last days were spent that way. He told me he had over 75 tests for blood work, X-rays, CT scans and breathing through masks and tubes while he waited for an intensive care unit bed to open up because he was too sick to be released.
We all know the expression “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink”. I’m reminded of this expression today, on a hot day in the Arizona desert where the temp is 102° and my dog has been sunning on the porch for a few minutes. He comes inside panting heavily and I stand next to his bowl of cool filtered water on the floor, in the same place it always is so he always knows where to find it. He cocks his head and looks at me as I enthusiastically encourage him to take a sip or two, but he doesn’t drink it. Instead he walks away to the sofa and lays down to sleep. As an observer I wonder why his natural instinct to give his body what it needs is resisting the obvious solution. I feel the same way about being offered a vaccine that will give me immunity against an aggressive, mutating virus that has killed more than half a million Americans in 18 months. For me, refusing the antidote wasn’t a gamble I was willing to take; my human instinct is survival.
Nobody loved life and being out and living fully more than my ex-husband did. He can’t speak for himself now but if he were here today I believe with my whole heart that he would laugh a bit and say “wow, I guess I really fucked that one up.” He was a huge personality who made it his mission to get to know people everywhere he went. He would scan the room every time he went out to figure out where he could open the conversation with a stranger and make a new friend. As I write this, it’s hard to believe I’m writing about him in the past-tense. Although we weren’t closely involved in each other’s lives since our divorce in 2017 we were still friends and looked out for each other. His spirit and energy will be missed by anyone who knew him. He took pride in being a strong leader and coach because he wanted to make a positive difference in people’s lives, and if his legacy can be to save even one life of someone who is still undecided about getting vaccinated, he would be so proud. The man who was living life to the fullest in Vegas in July would have never believed he would be gone forever just three weeks later.
For me, being a teacher in the community of healing arts, this has been a difficult emotional process. I want to help and heal others so desperately, but I have learned the hard way that I cannot save anyone who is not willing to participate in their own rescue. This has been a hard lesson for me that the universe has been trying to teach me (many times over. More about that in my upcoming book / guide, "Soul Fire"), and this one feels like the biggest, saddest, hardest lesson yet because it is such a profound and permanent loss. I must let go of all of the “what ifs” and know that his spiritual lesson was his alone. I’m Covid-weary, and I need to move forward to continue on my path toward helping and healing the people who are willing to participate in their wellness. With all of my heart, I hope you are one of them.