We are now at the beginning of the beginning for addressing the virus. I have a slightly contrarian view of our new national approach to combating the Covid-19 pandemic through the vaccination strategy. Conventional wisdom indicates that we vaccinate the people most at risk in our society to prevent needless death and suffering in the vulnerable cohorts; elderly, infirm and people with co-morbidities.
While I understand this approach and the scientific data that supports these interventions, I would ask the question, what happens to the young who are at risk for Covid-19 infection and those infected who will suffer unknown impacts to their health status going into the future?
I am of the age and health designation that I will be one of the first to get the opportunity for vaccination. I have a vested interest. My wife, who is younger, will fall into the category of being next in line but she may have a co-morbidity that will make her eligible for earlier vaccination. I am concerned for her health. I have two daughters in their twenties that will be the last to receive the Covid-19 vaccination. I worry for their health and futures. I raise the question; is the risk for delaying vaccination to our young too great, to the overall well being of the country and world at large? What will happen if we inherit a world of sick young people who will impact our healthcare capacities for a disproportionately longer period of time if they were to be infected, survive but develop chronic illnesses secondary to the disease? What happens to our workforce? What happens to our economy?
I would hope that we will have an approach that addresses this conundrum in public health safety and future impacts on the economic viability of a world with sick young people needing health resources for a long time and not being able to work due to illness, reducing tax dollars into our national coffers, further impacting our country’s future ability to serve our population. We need more Covid-19 vaccines now and a wider distribution to a more varied base of recipients without age considerations. We must save our future by saving our young.
The Lesson of Thalidomide for Covid19, Look Before You Leap – My youngest daughter will say in the most excruciating terms that I am old, especially when I am trying to make a point based on some ancient piece of information that I remember to support an argument I am trying to win. She calls me ‘Lesson Plan Dad.’ It’s not a term of endearment. I usually go off and shake my head because she will sometimes ignore me or dismiss me from existence. But a funny thing happened as she was going out recently, she whispered to me before I had a chance to ‘advise her’ about following Covid19 precautions, “don’t worry Dad, I remember everything you said I had to do to remain safe. I hear your voice all the time.” This pleased me to no end because, 20 years after the death of my own Mother, I still hear her ‘voice’ warning me and giving me good advice. I’m sure some of you have that same experience.
The proverb, ‘Look before you leap’ has been a form of advice that has been given for centuries. This proverb was first noted in a 1380 manuscript and then captured in a collection of English proverbs by John Heywood in 1546; describes unintended actions and reactions that can lead to untoward results. The first use of this term in America is associated with a failure in diplomacy in the late 1600’s that occurred in New England during the time of the colonists and a war that caused significant damage of property and loss of life for both the Native Americans and many colonists who had previously coexisted uneasily (King Philip’s War). As defined, both sides in this tragic circumstance did not take-into-account all the consequences of their actions and could not avert the turmoil which befell them all.
In 1957 West Germany, a medication that was hailed a wonder drug and was marketed as a treatment for, nervousness, anxiety and morning sickness and distributed over the counter (OTC), turned into a nightmare for the German people. Many side effects of this medication included horrendous birth defects in the guise of malformation of the limbs, still born babies, tumor development and many other conditions. This medication was named Thalidomide. This drug was prevented from being introduced to the American market by a pharmacist, Frances Kelsey at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), because of her concerns for the safety of our population. Because of the horrific birth defects noted in the so called ‘Thalidomide Babies,’ greater constraints and regulatory oversight of medications before their use in the public space has become one of the hallmarks of our American medical and pharmaceutical model. Appropriate oversight by the FDA has saved lives. We are looking before we leap!
During these dangerous times, in the Age of Covid19, our well-founded fear and concern for the lives lost and the lives at risk could have the effect of eroding the lessons of the past when it comes to the manufacture and distribution of a vaccine before the necessary due diligence has been implemented. I understand this rush for a cure, but I am reminded and informed about the possible consequences of not performing the work needed to safeguard ourselves from a malady of our own making. There is a reason why there isn’t a Corona vaccine in the world’s arsenal, its hard to create. Mutagenesis (DNA mutations that are engineered secondary to induction by an external factor) and Carcinogenesis (the result of agents capable of developing malignant tumors by inducing cellular changes) are the untoward effects that can result from the introduction of an external, uncontrolled factor into the population. I am not a fear monger, nor am I a scientist, microbiologist or anything remotely approaching an expert in the field on immunology or virology. I am a nurse by profession with a healthy appreciation for the rule of unintended consequences.
Let’s do this by the book! I am informed by the ethical boundaries of not experimenting on animals and conducting animal studies but in this most hazardous of times, please employ ethicists to conclude if utilizing an animal for determining if generational impacts can be averted in the human hosts who will be the final recipients of any vaccine that is developed can be averted. I am not a ‘Night of the Living Un-Dead Roach Avengers’ kind of guy but take a look at our oceans and see the harm we have done by introducing plastics to that environment and see the fish that have plastics in their systems that we are eating now. You get my point. There are potential downstream repercussions to our actions that must be considered and explored. For our children’s sakes, let’s not muck this up any worse than it already is by allowing political expedience to be determinative for the science that is necessary to figure this out and arrive at the best course of action to take.
Can you see the future? It is daunting. I see a change in some privacy protections regarding Covid19 status. Pre or Post Covid19 infection certifications. A loss of some HIPAA protections in the guise of Public Health prerogatives. Let the lawsuits proceed! What will be the civil liberty concerns as this pandemic changes the social structures of our future. Before going into a restaurant will you have to show your Covid19 certification? When you enter a hospital or go to an Emergency Room, will your Covid19 status dictate which door you enter. As a Black man who understands the ramifications of bias, my experiences extend to the general public: will my Covid19 status determine my access to jobs, travel, opportunity. Will dating apps now reveal the Covid19 status of the prospective date?
I know this seems absurd on the face of it but you would be surprised what fear will do to a society (see the Red Scare period of our country’s history). If and when a vaccine is developed, will the anti-vaccine crowd be denied access to public schools upon refusing to use it. Will you be able to refuse the vaccine based on religious grounds? There are public health laws that allow the incarceration of individuals that pose a threat to the general public, will this happen here if an individual is presenting symptoms but refuses to self-isolate? Get used to proximity tracking of your travel in cities based on your Covid19 status. Our days of innocence are over. We will not be able to look down on the political decisions of the leadership of China in their authoritarian way of governance to control their populace. Can that happen here? And be cautious America, be on guard for the hardline, authoritarian political leaders who will want to control many aspects of your life based on your Covid19 status. Any excuse for power-grabbing is fair game in the post Covid-19 age.
Will Covid19ism become the new racism? Or will all this fade as we get accustomed to this new reality. Our norms will change, are changing already.
Handshakes are a thing of the past, doorknobs will disappear (who wants to touch those anymore?). We will wash our hands more as a result which is a good thing and anyone entering our homes will be expected to wash their hands immediately (I suspect there will be a decrease in seasonal Influenza). We have to be alert to the possible erosions to our privacy and freedoms. I am all for testing , but please maintain my privacy. I know that a balance will have to be found to protect my individual privacy and the protection of the public and my neighbors. I just want to give you some food for thought.
A Town of Bandits: Tombstone never looked like this. Wyatt Earp would have gone crazy. The line in front of King Kullen in Bridgehampton, NY and countless other supermarkets in the country are full of people wearing masks, bandanas of every color and stripe, waiting on line (6 feet apart) to swipe that Lysol spray. They are on line (6 feet apart) to get that last roll of toilet tissue in aisle 9, on the left behind the Bounty. “I refuse to use the Bounty to wipe my As…….. Too rough on the butt, but plenty absorbent!”
The Bandits are on the loose! From Montauk to Flatbush, from Sag Harbor to Bed-Stuy, the Bandits are everywhere. Who would have thought? You can’t tell the good guys from the bad. “Oh look at that bad desperado over there in the shadows, leaning over to the side, with that slow purposeful walk; slight glint in their eye. They are heading right toward me. I’m getting scared now. Of course they have a mask on, hiding their face. What am I to do? Nowhere to run or hide. Here they come, reaching in their pocket, taking out a…. set of glasses…. oh she’s smiling….it’s Grandma. Damn I feel foolish now. I guess I’ll just have to trust my neighbors more”. There are some bad people in the world but overwhelmingly good people are around us. Just look at the heroes in every Hospital, Nursing Home and providing Home Care services. The GOOD GUYS are fighting the good fight and will win this war!
We are all Bandits now. No time to look at each other with jaundice eye. Our plight is the same. Social distancing in an age of disease with imposing names, SARS, Corona Virus, Covid-19 or as it is known in the inner city….”The ‘Rona.” We are ALL IN THIS TOGETHER! We are all Bandits now, faced with the same circumstance, forcing us apart but bringing us together like never before.
I was taken aback the other day when I was getting ready to order door front service from a local store in Southampton in an effort to support a local business. I witnessed multiple people going into the store, opening the closed door with their bare hands; no gloves on, no masks on (hey businesses, leave your doors open when possible to prevent the spread of virus on door handles). I left the store not ordering anything knowing that it was a risk. EVERYONE has to take this seriously, accept their responsibility for each other’s health; this is about life and death.
To all my fellow Bandits, please continue to wear your masks, wear your gloves, wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands! Let’s #flattenthecurve. Practice social distancing, keep in touch with the elderly shut-ins, call a friend, ZOOM videoconference with the proper safety and privacy features enabled to stay connected.
Wellness: I am feeling so very blessed and I wanted to share my story. Two years ago I had the scare of my life and I am so very grateful to be a survivor. April 20th, 2018, I woke up and something looked wrong with my face, my left eye was tearing and I had no idea what was happening but my husband said let’s go see the doctor. It was my oldest daughter’s last day living at home and her last day at her job in East Hampton, she was moving on with her life and would be starting a new job in NYC. I said let’s go to SagTown in Sag Harbor to get some coffee. Kurt my husband had taken the day off to go to the doctor with me because I was nervous, we ordered our coffee then in a matter of seconds things were progressively moving quickly. I went to the bathroom to look at my eye and when I looked up my face had drooped more, I was immediately nervous. I told Kurt I am very concerned, so he said I will drop Dani off at work and you go pick up the eyedrops, he said we would leave my car in town and he would drive me to my doctor’s office. I went to pick up the drops and came back to my car to put the drops in my eye and wait for Kurt to come back. Kurt called me to make sure I was ok and all of sudden I could not speak, it was terrifying, I honestly did not know what was happening. I heard a tap on the window of my car, I rolled down the window and there was an officer asking me if I was ok. I was at this time unable to speak and became very agitated because I did not know that Kurt had sent them to find me. The officer proceeded to ask me questions and because I was unable to find my voice he became concerned, took my car keys, and called for an ambulance. As you can probably imagine he thought I was having a stroke and there was a small window to rush me to the hospital to minimize the symptoms if this were a stroke. I was very scared, I had never heard of Bell’s Palsy but I did not think I was having a stroke because my parents and grandmother had all had strokes within the last 3 years and I knew the symptoms.
Once I arrived at Southampton Hospital the staff was very attentive and proceeded to do all the necessary tests to rule out a stroke, once they ruled out that I was not having a stroke they then proceeded to assume I was having some mental issues because they could not understand why I was unable to speak. They kept me in the hospital overnight for observation and in the morning a very nice doctor came in and diagnosed me with Bell’s Palsy. He explained what was happening and prescribed anti-inflammatory medication prednisone to help reduce the swelling of the facial nerve. I was released from the hospital later that morning, once I got home I was completely exhausted and just went to sleep for the rest of the day.
What is Bell’s Palsy?
What is Bell’s Palsy: Google definition “Bell’s palsy is a condition in which the muscles on one side of your face become weak or paralyzed. It affects only one side of the face at a time, causing it to droop or become stiff on that side. It’s caused by some kind of trauma to the seventh cranial nerve. This is also called the “facial nerve.”
The recovery was hard, but I was so grateful that it was not a stroke, I was able to care for myself, go to the bathroom on my own, I believe my positive energy is what helped with my recovery. Many say that one gets Bell’s Palsy from Lyme Disease, but for me, I think my Bell’s Palsy was activated by stress. Prior to my illness, I suffered the immeasurable loss of both my mother and grandmother, information that was gut-wrenching was shared with me and it took months to absorb and heal from it. I found myself in the position of being the Matriarch of the family and I felt I had no time to break-down I needed to show strength and so I think all of that bottled up stress needed to be released.
During my recovery it was hard to do many things, eating, drinking, swallowing, talking, smiling, closing my eye, sleeping. My left eye did not close, so I was very tired because when your eye does not blink it can be very exhausting. It was challenging driving, watching television, or being on the computer for an extended period of time. I had to change my daily way of doing things. I went back to work after being home for a couple of days, it was a challenge because I felt all eyes starring at me, but after watching my parents and my grandmother suffered a stroke, I felt like God had spared my life and I did not focus on anyone staring at me. I focused on recovery. After the 1st day, everyone stopped starring it was back to normal. I continued to stay focused and positive on my recovery over the next month. I shut down my computer, television, and phone at 9 pm every night. I researched what I should eat, what I should not eat, and what I needed to do to recover in 4-8 weeks. I avoided foods that contained, Arginine-Rich Foods, Omega-6 Foods, and Trans Fats. This website helped me https://www.livestrong.com/article/352853-foods-to-avoid-when-you-have-bells-palsy/.
I cannot tell you if that helped, but for me, I was going to take all advice because I was determined to get better. I slept with an eyepatch, it was very helpful, I drank from a straw because drinking from a cup was very hard, 1/2 of my face was paralyzed, I ate soft food because swallowing was a challenge. As my face began to slowly recover it was painful and sleeping at night was a challenge, sometimes I would need to take an Advil to get some sleep. Talking was definitely the hardest part, if I spoke slow I was ok but if I got agitated with someone who I felt could not understand me, my speech would get worst. At that moment I felt the agony of a stroke victim, it humbled me and I would not allow myself to feel sorry for myself. I began to see the progression in four weeks and someone who just met me for the first time would never know a month earlier I had partial facial paralysis; it was able to eat real food, swallow, talk, partial smile. In 2 months I was able to smile, it took a bit longer for my left eye to close completely, washing my face with soap was always a real challenge.
It has been 2 years
It has been 2 years and I still have some residual of my Bell’s Palsy, my left eye twitches and I never feel like it is fully closed, the cemetery of my face is slightly off, but only I notice it and my smile is slightly crooked, but I’ll take it because some never recover. I was one of the lucky survivors and I never stop thanking God for blessing my life. I share my story because I have discovered this happens to many people of all ages all the time.
I wanted someone who might be going through this condition to know that there is hope and you can recover. Be positive, be patient, and be grateful. Don’t let your physical appearance define who you are, focus on recovering and not your vanity. I had an opportunity to interview a doctor who specializes in treating patients who don’t organically recover from Bell’s Palsy, in my part two of this series Recovering from Bell’s Palsy I will share that interview.