According to the handy dandy little Corona Virus counter maintained by Johns Hopkins, we’re up to nearly 1,000 cases in Alabama. About half of those are in the greater Birmingham area. UAB continues to weather the storm but folk are getting tired and we’re all still on the upswing. My professional life is fairly peripheral to the main hospital where the majority of cases are being treated. Currently, it’s my job to look after my patient population and try to keep them healthy enough so that they don’t need to come into the emergency department or the hospital for any reason. Lots of phone calls checking on medications and refills, making sure people aren’t falling, that fluid status is OK, and nipping UTIs and bronchitis in the bud. Anything I and my colleagues can do to reduce pressure on the hospital system the next few weeks, the better.
The rhythms of my work week are all out of whack. It doesn’t feel right to be a doctor and not be able to see my patients other than the occasional video chat. When you’ve done this job as long as I have (32 years now since I graduated from medical school…), you get this spidey sense about who is sick and who is not and what is normal and what can be safely ignored and what needs to be investigated further and it just doesn’t work without the physical presence of the patient. I’m pretty good at what I do and I’m afraid that the current straitened circumstances are going to lead me into missing something significant. We can still see people in the office, we’re just trying to avoid it as much as possible as we are just down the hall from the emergency department and we want to minimize the risk of exposure to Covid 19 in my patient population.
I’ve been thinking about what to write this evening for a while. This is always a mistake. When I overthink one of these long posts, they get stilted and anodyne and don’t come from the heart the way the ones I write half asleep as pure stream of consciousness do. Good, bad, or indifferent, I really couldn’t think of much that I felt I had to touch on. We’ve all seen the news. We all know that it’s going to be a while before any of this lets up and we’re all in this together. Not just as Americans, but as members of the human species world wide. In this age of globalization and international travel, Covid 19 is going to make its way to pretty much every human population within the next year or so. I imagine even the isolated tribes of Highland New Guinea have some contact with others and it doesn’t seem to take much for it to leap from one person to the next.
For various reasons, I’ve had to cancel my time off in April/May that I was going to use to move. It’s just as well. I still haven’t figured out how to move furniture when one lives alone in a time of quarantine and social distancing. If Tommy were still here, we could make it work (aside from the piano) but he’s not and I am not as young as I once was and even when I was in my prime I could not move a couch by myself. Steve and I moved ourselves a number of times over the years. We were young and energetic and we were always moving within the same neighborhood so a pickup truck and some boxes usually sufficed. He moved in with me towards the end of my internship year. I didn’t ask him to. I just came home one day to find his living room set in my apartment. When I said we should really talk about this first, he got upset and, when I came home from my next call night, the furniture was gone again. I think he drove his living room furniture up and down Highway 99 between Sacramento and Lodi three or four times. It became a standing joke between us. I could tell if he was mad at me if the couch disappeared.
Our first move was upstairs in the same apartment building – the units were slightly bigger. About a year and a half later, we found a condo, the upper story of an old Victorian a few blocks away, so we hauled everything over there for the next few years. Timothy Busfield’s brother, Buck, and his family lived next door and he and Tim were in the process of starting the B street theater in Sacramento at the time so I got a little vicarious theater interaction when we would run into them but, for the most part, it was buckle down and finish residency and fellowship and get the career underway. Our last self move was to a lovely craftsman bungalow a few blocks further uptown once I finished all my training and finally started making a real paycheck. Steve had gotten a deal on some furniture through a friend and we had stashed it in various neighbors basements until we took possession and had a long weekend in which we could retrieve it all.
The house, as a craftsman bungalow style from 1912, had been designed for one level living with an unfinished second floor. A previous owner had finished out the second floor and then Allan Owen had redone it with a grand master suite (including a shower to die for) but the interior stairwell remained small as it had only ever really been intended to be attic stairs. One of the pieces of furniture we had bought was a large white wood desk. Steve had picked it out as he thought a doctor should have an impressive desk in the home office (the old sleeping porch). The sucker weighed a ton and was large enough to be impractical. Steve and I got it into the house and into the stairwell where we managed to get it wedged tightly between wall and bannister. We couldn’t get it up, we couldn’t get it down, we couldn’t back it out. We asked one of our body building neighbors for help. He couldn’t budge it. We finally had to get out a skill saw and cut the legs off of it to free it. We then reassembled it in the office with a little wood glue. It was so heavy, it didn’t budge. When it came time to move to Alabama, we left it in the house. We weren’t about to have a repeat of the prior incident. For all I know, it’s still there.
I’ll figure out the move thing eventually. It’s really not that high up on my list of worries at the moment. But I remain amazed at my long track record of poor timing in real estate transactions. If Covid had hit six weeks earlier, I wouldn’t have been out looking. If it hit six week later, I would already have moved.
Everybody stay well.