Pine Street Episode 196

Vulnerable seniors. Douglas struggled with the knowledge that this phrase applied to him. Except when he looked in the mirror, he thought of himself as a man in his thirties, or occasionally, a teenager of eighteen or nineteen, with a whole life to look forward to.

But no, here he was, turning seventy, married for the second time, and a cancer survivor. And back in the hospital because of a tiny, vicious, microbe that had hopped from animal to human, and, all too quickly, from human to human. 

Somehow it had hopped to him, most likely on his recent trip abroad. A few days after returning to Pine Street, he’d begun to cough. Too typical of the aftermath of time on planes with stale air and lots of fellow passengers to concern him all that much, the cough persisted.

When Louise touched his forehead and told him he had a fever, Douglas’s heart sank. Because of his health history, he knew he had to go to his doctor. 

And now, here he was, in a hospital bed again, hooked up to various monitors and tubes, and wondering what might come next. 

So far, at least, Louise was still healthy. She wasn’t allowed to visit him, but she called several times a day. She’s also a vulnerable senior, he pondered, how did we all get old all so suddenly?

Leo had visited before the quarantine became stricter. “What do you need, what can I do?” Leo had asked.

When people ask that, it immediately makes our minds go blank. I never can think of anything. Or, the only things I can imagine are impossible: bring back my youth, my health, my ability to move around my community with ease. I want to go out to lunch. Or just curl up in bed beside Louise tonight, annoy her by putting my arm around her, count the seconds until she sighs and gently moves my hand away. 

“How are we?” The nurse interrupted Douglas’s reverie. Masked, helmeted, gowned, and gloved, the nurses found a way to maintain their down-to-earth humanity. For this, Douglas was intensely grateful.

“A little tired,” he said, “but fine.” 

Let’s hope this is the worst of it, he thought, watching the nurse take his vitals from behind all those barriers.

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