Iím writing this weekís column from my home office, something Iíll be doing for the next few weeks. Thatís because my husband, Gideon, has come down with something that looks an awful lot like COVID-19. I donít have any symptoms yet, or hopefully ever, but thereís no way to predict whatís going to happen a day, a week or a month from now.
Gideon and I knew we were risking our health when he returned to teaching in late August. Every teacher knows that risk. But he loves his kids and understands why in-person is the only option for some of them. So he went, and we sat on pins and needles for weeks worrying about one of us getting sick.
Itís funny how the thing you worry about feels when it actually happens. When Gideon started showing symptoms last Wednesday, I kind of went on autopilot taking him water and snacks, or reminding him to take ibuprofen to keep his fever down. I didnít freak out like I thought I would, but does anything ever turn out exactly how we expect?
We went to a testing facility on Friday morning, where Gideon was swabbed and told results wouldnít be available for two to five days. Weíre on day three now and results havenít come in yet. I canít take a test until his test comes back, because I must be exposed to a confirmed positive to qualify for testing. Supplies are in high demand, so that makes sense. It doesnít make for much peace of mind, though.
His symptoms got worse on Saturday ó he couldnít sleep through the night because of horrible back pain. Iíve never seen anybody with such dark bags under their eyes. He kept assuring me that his breathing was fine, but I could tell nothing about the situation was fine. Finally, he fell asleep and stayed asleep for a while.
Thatís when I did something you should never do. I looked up the symptoms of COVID-19 and saw a list of symptoms that would land you in the emergency room. Then I compared those symptoms to what Gideon appeared to be experiencing. I started to seriously freak out on the couch-bed I had made for myself three nights earlier. What if he did have COVID-19, and what if it wasnít a mild case?
Despite all attempts to stay positive, I couldnít find any optimism in that moment. I became angry, perhaps irrationally so, thinking about all those people who refuse to wear the mask or insist on attending crowded events knowing thereís a deadly pandemic going around. I became especially angry with Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who made it next to impossible for Arkansas educators and students to learn in a safe environment.
My husband is sick, and I could be, too. Weíve done everything right. Weíve been wearing the mask since March, tag-teaming trips to the grocery store, avoiding meet-ups with family and friends, only getting takeout when we donít cook at home and frequently washing our hands. And it seems that was all for naught, because Gideon has an important job to do and no truly safe way to do it.
A few weeks before school started back, my boss, Scott Loftis, wrote a column urging Hutchinson against in-person instruction. Scott wrote that people would get sick and school would eventually have to shut down anyway. He wondered the same thing Iíve been wondering for weeks now: Is the health and safety of our educators something we should gamble on?
Now that weíve rolled the dice, we have to accept the results. For me, that looks like working from home and worrying constantly over my husbandís health. Itís not a gamble I would have taken, but then again, I donít get to make the rules.