OPINION EXCHANGE | Amid the coronavirus threat: A plea on behalf of the old and sick – Minneapolis Star Tribune

Posted: March 11, 2020 at 4:45 am

I feel like a sacrificial lamb, or an acceptable casualty. When a politician or scientist or couch expert says, Its only the old and ill that die, they are talking about me. The coronavirus threat has changed my identity from that of a father, husband, son, friend, pastor, alcoholic with two years sobriety and a slew of chips to prove it, to that of a comforting statistic. My new identity may soon be summed up on the news when they say, Its OK. He had underlying health problems.

Im not complaining about those who are young and healthy. When I consider my children and my wife, I, like many of you, thank God for their health. Three months ago, I would have said the same thing about my health. Unfortunately, that changed in January when I finally decided to go to the doctor and have the little red spots that had formed all over my skin, along with the new bruises that showed up daily, looked at. I found out that the blood platelets that keep all of us from bleeding to death had decided to take a vacation from my body. Most people have anywhere from 150,000 to 450,000 platelets per microliter of blood. Mine were at 4,000, and there was a danger of blood seeping into my brain, ending my life.

The first time I was in the hospital, I was there for eight days. They ran tests and stuck me with needles, capping it all off with a bone-marrow biopsy. I was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder called aplastic anemia. To put it simply, my stem cells are under siege, making it difficult for my body to produce platelets, as well as red and white blood cells. I have been hospitalized around 45 days since that diagnosis. Im actually writing this article from a hospital room. Theres a truly stunning view of the hospital roof outside my window. With no white blood cells, my immune system is completely compromised, and every little infection that normal people fight off without even noticing brings me back to the hospital again.

The only cure for me is to have a bone-marrow transplant. The problem is, even though there are several matches for my transplant, in order for the transplant to go as well as possible I have to be free of infections, viruses and other diseases. Only then can I be admitted to the University of Minnesotas Blood and Bone Marrow Transplant Center. Last month this didnt bother me. Now, though, the coronavirus is coming up behind me, daring me to wait longer.

If all goes well, Ill be discharged from the hospital and self-quarantined to my house with a bag full of antibiotics and other drugs. Sadly, Ive been told that the other things I need to stay healthy and get to my transplant are gone. The hand sanitizer, the antibacterial wipes, the masks that my family should be wearing, and the N95 respirators that I need to wear are nowhere to be found someone actually stole a box of masks from outside my hospital room. Many of these items have been snatched up by the same folks who thank God they are not me.

Again, dont get me wrong. I am grateful for those who are young and healthy. They should be thankful, for they are blessed. I just pray that when they give that thanks, they remember those of us who are terrified by what is coming. We are not simply a means to calm peoples fears; we are people who deserve compassion, mercy and dignity. I ask simply that you pray for the old and sick that they might get through this, that you leave a little hand sanitizer on the shelves for us, and for goodness sake, dont take the N95 respirators from my hospital room. I need them because my family, who knows that I am more than a comforting statistic, needs me. They need the man who loves them dearly and desperately wants to continue to be their father and husband.

Howard Baird lives in Maple Grove.

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OPINION EXCHANGE | Amid the coronavirus threat: A plea on behalf of the old and sick - Minneapolis Star Tribune

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