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A Modern Day Bedtime Story

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Tabitha111 View Drop Down
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    Posted: August 03 2020 at 9:29am

     Coughin’ Connor

by monotreme1000
August 2, 2020 


Connor was in the back of the room playing with his red bandana. Officially, it was the mask he was required to wear to Central High School. But for Connor, would be class clown, the bandana was a prop that he used to amuse some of the slower students in Mr. Smith's American history class. A couple of weeks ago Connor had been at a pop up beer party. There, he had become infected with Covid-19. He hadn't had any symptoms, until now.


When he was a teenager Mr. Smith had enjoyed watching WWII movies. He particularly identified with British Field Marshall Montgomery ("Monty") who Mr. Smith believed he resembled.

 Mr. Smith always wore khaki pants and a pressed button down shirt and affected a military bearing. To him, the students of Central High were the rough recruits whom he would mold into responsible adults. Mr. Smith thought the whole pandemic was overblown. But he was a rule-follower. If his orders were to wear a mask, he would wear a mask. But no reason to go overboard on the type of mask. Mr. Smith wore a thin, single layer mask, khaki-colored, of course.


Connor had his bandana around his neck when suddenly he started coughing hard. Mr. Smith looked up. He was so startled that his mouth hung open. Covid-19 particles shot out of Connor's mouth at tremendous velocity. Mr. Smith's thin mask stopped a few of them, but most continued straight through and into his mouth. They continued down his pharynx until they reached his lungs.


Bettina, who always sat in the first row, looked behind her when Connor started coughing. She had on an excellent three layer mask purchased by her concerned father. Her mask prevented any viral particles from entering her nose or mouth. However, she had no eye covering (no one had warned the students or teachers that you can be infected through the eyes). So, Connor's Covid-19 viral particles merged with the mucosa surrounding her eyes. The virus would eventually find its way to her lungs.

Connor infected 20 of his classmates that day. Some of those students then infected other students. All told, Connor was responsible for a total of about 100 infections. Most of the infected students had no or mild symptoms. A few needed oxygen for a few days. But only two people became seriously ill - Mr. Smith and Bettina.

2 weeks later

Mr. Smith was on a Zoom call with with some of his fellow teachers and the Principal of his school for a weekly check-in and pep talk. He had been feeling feverish for a few days, but brushed it off. He wasn't a weenie like some of his colleagues who were teaching remotely from their cabins in Colorado.

 But he was having trouble focusing on the discussion about what to do after Thanksgiving. Hospitals in Centralville were overrun with a combination of flu and Covid. Should the students come back after their vacation, even with masks? It was Mr. Smith's turn to talk. He started to speak but no one could hear him. Finally, realized that he hadn't unmuted. When he reached for the computer mouse he missed. Then he collapsed while his colleagues watched in shock and fear. One of them called 911. Mr. Smith was unconscious when he was brought to Central Hospital.


Bettina's first symptom was that she didn't enjoy eating ice cream at the stand she and her father had been going to for years. The ice cream just didn't taste right.

 When she developed a temperature, she stayed at home as recommended by her school. She didn't feel that bad, just sort of sluggish. She really missed school. She was a good student and enjoyed Mr. Smith's American history course. They were covering George Washington's involvement in the French and Indian War, which she found fascinating. She wanted to go back as soon as possible, but she was a responsible person and knew she should stay home until she was better. 


Her father knocked on her door and entered. He was worried about Bettina because he knew she had a history of getting sicker than other children when "something was going around". Neither he nor Bettina knew, but Bettina had a minor immune deficiency. There was a genetic mistake in her DNA that meant she could not fight off infections as well as others. Normally, this would not be a life threatening condition. But these were not normal times. 


Bettina's father, Carl, a tall, large bald man, brought a small device over to Bettina. He had read about it on the internet. It was called a "pulse oximeter" and was used to estimate how much oxygen was in someone's blood. He had had to pay much more than normal to get one. But he wanted to make sure Bettina was OK. He had tested it on himself and found that he had normal readings. He explained what it was and put it on Bettina's finger. A few seconds later, the device emitted a warning noise. Carl tried the device a couple of more times. Each time, the warning noise came on. He called 911 and asked what he should do.

 They asked him what was the number on the pulse oximeter. When he told them, they said they would send paramedics right over. When they arrived, they confirmed Carl's results and told him that Bettina would have to go to Central Hospital immediately. Carl would not be able to visit the hospital and would have to go into quarantine himself.


Mr. Smith awoke in Central Hospital strapped to a gurney and wearing a hospital gown with tubes for oxygen in his nose. He was in a corridor that was crowded with patients, many of them moaning in pain and distress. What the Hell is this, he wondered? Like a scene from Dante's inferno. Mr. Smith didn't feel so good himself. But he wasn't going to moan about it. He wasn't a weenie! Monty wouldn't be moaning in this situation.


Bettina felt strange going to a hospital when she really didn't feel that bad. The doctor explained that her oxygen levels were very low. Her lungs were under serious attack. She would need oxygen for sure. And maybe more.


Over the next few days, both Mr. Smith and Bettina declined. They were both in danger of dying. It was decided that each one only had one hope - Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO). 


Central Hospital had one such machine and it was available as a patient who had been on it had died. The problem was, it was the only hope for Mr. Smith and Bettina. Who would get it? The Triage Committee met to decide. It wasn't really a hard decision - a 52 year old teacher versus a 17 year old girl? Bettina would be put on ECMO. Mr. Smith would receive palliative care.


Mr. Smith finally got his own room. It was small and dark and seemed as if it had been used for something else. But at least he didn't have to listen to all that moaning. Not that he was aware of much, most of the time. In one of his lucid moments, he was asked if he had any family. No, he had never been married and had no children. Did he have any one who close to him? Not really. He regarded most of his fellow High School teachers as ignorant weenies.


 He did have some friends among the WWII model builders association he belonged to. They had great conversations about WWII history at the various conventions and exhibitions which featured models. But only a weenie would insist that his pals take any responsibility for him when he was sick. 

One night Mr. Smith woke up suddenly and noticed that his feet were very cold. In fact, he could hardly feel them. He looked down and saw that they were covered. Strange, he thought. Something felt wrong, very wrong. What was happening to him?

The next morning, a nurse came into the room and knew immediately the patient was dead. "I've got another one" she called out. A short time later, an orderly came into the room and moved Mr. Smith's body to the morgue. The orderly had done this many times. He was used to death in the hospital. But this was too much, too many. He had started drinking hoping it would end the nightmares. It didn't.


Since Mr. Smith had no relatives or identified responsible parties to claim his remains, his body was quickly moved from the morgue to a refrigerated truck. After a few days in the truck, it was taken to a field with many recently dig graves. His body was put into a simple box and lowered into a grave. A back hoe filled the grave with dirt. And that was that for Mr. Smith.


Bettina awoke from an induced coma weeks after she had been hooked up to the ECMO machine. She was told that she was better now, much better. The ECMO machine and the large staff of health care professionals that operated it had saved her life. She was happy. But she felt weak and confused. She had to be told things several times before she could understand them.


Carl was waiting for her when she came out of the hospital in a wheel chair. The wheel chair wasn't just a formality. She was too weak to walk on her own. Carl was filled with joy at seeing Bettina again. He had been very afraid that he would lose her. But she seemed so thin and drawn. She had always been a plump girl. But now her skin just seemed to hang on her.


Over time, Bettina got a bit stronger. But she had a secret fear that she didn't tell anyone about. She was continually thinking about breathing. In. Out. In. Out. Over and over again. She was scared that if she didn't think about breathing, she would simply stop. Breathing. So, in, out, in, out, all day long. At night it was worse. Bettina feared that if she slept, she would stop breathing and die in the night. Sometimes she lay in bed for hours before exhaustion over came her and she fell asleep. Carl wondered why she was so tired in the morning and thought it had to do with her illness. It did. But not for a reason he would have guessed.


Carl had another concern. When he received the bill from the hospital, he thought there must be a mistake. Surely a couple of zeros had been added by the computer? No, he learned when he called the billing department. He really did owe that much. What about insurance? The government? Well, they had paid quite a lot. But ECMO was really expensive. Not just the machine, but all those people who were needed to monitor the patient and tweak all the settings 24/7.


 Carl was grateful that Bettina was alive and did not begrudge the money necessary to pay for her care. But it was a lot for him to cover. He emptied his 401K plan. So much for retiring to Texas and fishing for the rest of his life. This wasn't enough. He would have to sell his his house and he and Bettina would have to move into an apartment.


Carl continued to work as a shoe salesman for many years until he died of a heart attack. He never did get to retire. Bettina eventually put on the weight she had lost and then some. She didn't eat because she enjoyed certain foods a lot, as she had in the past. She ate because it was just something to do. She never finished high school. Instead, she ended up working as a cashier in a liquor store. When the store was held up, she gave up the money with a blank look on her face. When her manager talked to her about, expecting her to want to quit (most cashier's did after this type of experience) Bettina had just shrugged and said that things like this just happened. Nothing you could do about it. The manager thought Bettina was great. She was "chill". Nothing bothered her.


Conner went to business college but found the math was too hard. On the advice of a drinking buddy, he switched to Public Affairs. This was more his speed. There was a new major called "Risk Communications". Conner figured out that this was just a fancy way to lie to the public about bad things the authorities had done or were responsible for. Just his speed! In the airborne Ebola pandemic of 2038, Conner did his part to delay travel restrictions. For this, his colleagues gave him a new nickname:

Coffin Conner,

~~~~~The End~~~~~

'A man who does not think and plan long ahead will find trouble right at his door.'
--Confucius

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ViQueen24 View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ViQueen24 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 03 2020 at 9:46am

This was a good story but I am confused.  Are Connor/Colin the same person?

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Tabitha111 View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Tabitha111 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 03 2020 at 11:42am

Originally posted by ViQueen24 ViQueen24 wrote:

This was a good story but I am confused.  Are Connor/Colin the same person?



good catch...yes they are. fixed it!!

'A man who does not think and plan long ahead will find trouble right at his door.'
--Confucius

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ViQueen24 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 03 2020 at 12:48pm

That story makes a good point.  We're all going to be changed when this is over.  No one is an island.  Why do we keep forgetting/ignoring we're all connected?

"In an urban society, everything connects.  Each person's needs are fed by the skills of many others.  Our lives are woven together in a fabric.  But the connections that makes society strong also make it vulnerable." -- Introduction, Threads, BBC movie, 1984.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dutch Josh Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 03 2020 at 11:08pm

I hear you calling me
You called me when
The moon had veiled her light
Before I went from you
Into the night
I came
Do you remember
Back to you for one last kiss
Beneath the cold starlight


I hear you calling me
And oh the ringing gladness
Of your voice
The one that made my
Loving heart rejoice
You spoke
Do you remember
And my heart still hears
The distant music of your voice


I hear you calling me
Though years have stretched
Their weary lengths between
And on your grave
The mossy grass green
I stand
Do you behold me listening here
Hearing your voice
Through all the years between

I hear you calling me....

[url]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzCfJrB1A8g[/url]

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
~Albert Einstein
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote carbon20 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 04 2020 at 2:13pm

DJ,

That made my eyes leak......

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.🖖

Marcus Aurelius
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