Rector's Ramblings April 8, 2020
If you don’t yet know someone who has contracted COVID-19, it probably won’t be long until you do. Until we have a vaccine program in place, many of us will contract this disease one way or another. Not all, but enough that we will all know someone, if it’s not we who get sick ourselves. Although we have numerous parishioners whose families have been touched by this disease already, we have had one parishioner so far who has tested positive. Some of you have already heard about him, because he happens to be married to one of our priests, and word travels fast on a small island. Uli Keller, husband of Mother Becky Rowell, is doing well as he approaches the end of his second week of symptoms, but he was very sick not long ago.
Uli and Mother Becky have written about their experience so that it could be shared with our parish, so they will do the bulk of this Rambling. What I will add at the outset is how proud I am to know these two fine people. One of their reasons for wanting to share their story is to put a face on this disease and help work against the stigmatization of those who have tested positive. We are already managing an increased fear of strangers and the invisible infected in our midst. While that is normal and human, we are also called to love the sick and recognize their wholeness even in illness. We remember that it was our Lord who touched the untouchable, including lepers and other outcasts of his day. We are called upon to emulate his example.
I give thanks that Uli is on the mend, and that Becky remains asymptomatic, especially because we know that this virus can be deadly. I hope that each of us is able to stay healthy as we continue to navigate this pandemic. And now, I’ll turn it over to Uli.
COVID -19: A Family Affair
Uli: March 23 looked innocent enough: Pickleball with Becky and the ladies, followed by mundane chores. It turned out to be anything but …. After returning home, the wind had left my sails: Nauseous, weak and very tired. Rest and trips to the medicine cabinet were of little help.
By Tuesday, all normalcy of the internal plumbing system had failed. Retention of any liquids or solids was impossible. Dehydration became the order of the day. Strength was sapped. By Friday, appointment at the clinic was inevitable. Tests did rule out flu or strep throat. Home, rest and treatment of symptoms to be continued. Coronavirus had not yet been raised, as my symptoms did not yet meet the CDC criteria. Life was truly miserable. What was the cause?
By Sunday, another trip to the clinic which ended at the hospital emergency room. The ER doctor ordered a battery of lab tests which required 8 vials of blood, followed by EKG and X-ray. I truly thought I was going to die. It would have been a relief. I was so thirsty. At the end of the day after reviewing the results, coronavirus was still not raised as an issue, as the symptoms didn’t fit the mold. There was no pulmonary stress and limited fever. But the doctor did order the Covid-19 test. Again, I was returned home under house quarantine. We kept strict separation at home, my concern was Becky. Retention of liquids and solids was still impossible. I was weak, tired, and very dehydrated. I had lost 13 pounds by Monday. Tuesday did bring some slight improvement. Clear broth, toast and tea made it to the right place. Only the Jello escaped. Wednesday saw more improvement. Had we broken the ice? By Thursday morning, cough was subsiding, I was feeling a little steadier on my feet, and even an egg looked good. The small pleasures of life. Was there a light at the end of the tunnel? Did we make it? Thursday morning the hospital infectious disease office called: POSITIVE test result!
Becky: I knew on Monday that something was wrong. My healthy, active, never-one-to-sit-down husband was sitting down and clearly not feeling well. Things slowly got worse and I quickly got scared. As the symptoms progressed, we decided that if he wasn’t better by Friday, he would go to the clinic. On Friday morning, I dropped him off and went home, so as not to be exposed to other infections in the waiting room. Fluids and medications provided some help, but no real relief. On Sunday, I returned to the clinic with my very sick husband and drove him to the ER. The hospital is allowing no visitors, so I was forced to drop him at the door and watch him walk in alone. I didn't know when I would see him again. Anticipating a hospital admission, I had sent him with his cell phone, charger and tablet. I called his daughters from the parking lot and then went home to wait. He texted updates and four hours later, called for a ride home. I was so grateful to have him at home. Yet, he continued to get sicker. All we could do was treat the symptoms and watch for shortness of breath which we were told could come on quickly and worsen fast. Thankfully, it never came. Finally, on Day 9 he seemed better and began to eat soft foods. He was still very lethargic and coughing, but no fever or nausea. As I read breaking news from The Brunswick News of two news cases, it was surreal to realize I lived with one of them.
Both of Us: We have notified everyone we had contact with several days before his symptoms began. Uli remains on quarantine until he is symptom-free for a minimum of 72 hours. The medical professionals have told us that Becky is a presumptuous positive because the virus is so highly transmissible. (There still aren’t enough tests for her to be tested.) She can go out for essentials since she is asymptomatic but must wear a mask. A parishioner graciously provided masks for both of us – Becky’s from Georgia Bulldog material!
We’ve experienced two major health challenges in our eighteen months of marriage – Becky’s cardiac event in November and now Uli’s Covid-19. Those challenges reaffirmed that the foundation of love supporting our marriage vows holds steadfast and true. Our love and commitment to each another for better or for worse and our vows to care for one another in sickness and in health are stronger than ever. One never anticipates these types of challenges and is rarely prepared for them. Yet, God unfailingly provides help and right direction, working in mysterious ways to walk with us each during these days, even the darkest ones. Despite fear, anger, and anxiety, we know that we are never alone. During prayer one night, Becky experienced a calming peace that brought sleep. And God worked through many of you as you texted and called to offer prayer and support that gave us courage and perspective.
We talk often of the many blessings we have experienced – good medical care by doctors who have followed-up by phone, infectious disease nurses who are walking us through the process of being cleared from quarantine, a wonderful close-knit family, and many loving friends. We sit outside on our deck in this beautiful weather and enjoy our new puppy, twelve-week old German Shepherd Lexi. This isn’t the best of times for a new puppy, but God knew we needed a distraction.
As the road to recovery is on the horizon, it is a time not only to reflect, but to look ahead. Once the isolation period ends, we will be able to provide needed plasma to first line caregivers and the critically ill. Early research shows that survivors’ plasma contains antibodies that may prevent our medical professionals from becoming ill and hasten the recovery of those who are.
While we won’t allow anyone near until Uli is clear, you’ve been very close to us through your love, caring, and prayers. We look forward to soon hugging each other – and you, too, once we can again gather.
This is Fr. Tom again to wrap things up. Many of us, or someone else we love, will have stories like this one before long, and I pray for a similar outcome for each of them. I pray God’s mercies for those affected when the outcome is different. Each day is an opportunity for giving thanks and sharing God’s love. Don’t let today get away from you without making sure you’ve shared that love as far and wide as possible. God is good, my friends.
Jesus Christ, you traveled through towns and villages “curing every disease and illness.” At your command, the sick were made well. Come to our aid now, in the midst of the global spread of the coronavirus, that we may experience your healing love.
Heal those who are sick with the virus. May they regain their strength and health through quality medical care.
Heal us from our fear, which prevents nations from working together and neighbors from helping one another.
Heal us from our pride, which can make us claim invulnerability to a disease that knows no borders.
Jesus Christ, healer of all, stay by our side in this time of uncertainty and sorrow.
Be with those who have died from the virus. May they be at rest with you in your eternal peace.
Be with the families of those who are sick or have died. As they worry and grieve, defend them from illness and despair. May they know your peace.
Be with the doctors, nurses, researchers and all medical professionals who seek to heal and help those affected and who put themselves at risk in the process. May they know your protection and peace.
Be with the leaders of all nations. Give them the foresight to act with charity and true concern for the well-being of the people they are meant to serve. Give them the wisdom to invest in long-term solutions that will help prepare for or prevent future outbreaks. May they know your peace, as they work together to achieve it on earth.
Whether we are home or abroad, surrounded by many people suffering from this illness or only a few, Jesus Christ, stay with us as we endure and mourn, persist and prepare. In place of our anxiety, give us your peace.
Jesus Christ, heal us. Amen.
A Prayer Amid an Epidemic, By Kerry Weber, Executive Editor, America Magazine
Photo Credits: COVID-19 Test via wikemedia.com