Teri Vance: Pandemic touches lives close to home

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my husband and I testing positive for COVID-19. It has been a struggle since then. Earlier this week, I also came down with strep throat. It seems I’ve been sick forever, I’m just so ready to feel better.

And I’m not unique.

As of the writing of this column, in Carson City and the surrounding counties of Lyon, Storey and Douglas, we’ve had 6,777 cases with 3,312 recoveries and 68 deaths.

It’s growing exponentially daily.

Still, there are many people who resist even the slightest precautions or social-distancing measures. Many remain in denial over the severity of the virus.

To help bring perspective, and to humanize the numbers, I want to share the story Teri Case, an author who graduated Carson High School in 1989, wrote about her mom, Bonnie.

I dedicate this week’s column to Teri Case’s story:

This cutie-slash-firecracker of a woman, our mother, passed away Monday, Dec. 7, 2020. A fierce survivor all her life, my mom fought COVID-19 tooth and nail for over a week in the hospital. She spent her final days at home, in her room, where one wall is covered with pictures of her parents, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and all their accomplishments.

My mom’s assisted-living center (ALC) did everything possible to keep my mom, their residents, and staff safe. Early in March, her center went into lockdown to protect its residents before anyone asked them to. They sent a clear message: We are here to protect our residents. That COVID-19 infiltrated the center this November was utterly beyond their control.

My mom's ALC Family helped her meet her moment with dignity by putting their hearts and souls into making her comfortable. They put their lives on the line. Mom was highly contagious, so we couldn't be with her. Daily, the team shared messages of love from us. They even put her headphones on and hit “play” so she might hear us. My mom loved her ALC family, and they loved her.

I can hear people now. “But didn’t she have Parkinson’s?” Or “Isn’t it for the best?”

No, it’s not for the best. Her death was utterly and heartbreakingly avoidable.

People, my mom didn’t want COVID-19. She wore a mask for six months. She went without hugs from her nine children for almost a year. She skipped her brother's funeral because people wouldn't be wearing masks. She encouraged her center’s protection rather than rail against it. She did everything she could to hinder and survive this pandemic.

So, no, it's not for the best.

What would have been best is if last April 2020, when the CDC asked the public to wear masks, people would have put their egos, pride, and opinions aside and worn masks. But most didn’t. Many still won’t.

Yesterday, via contactless delivery, we sent several pizzas and cinnamon twists to my mom's center with the message, "Bonnie's favorite therapy was food. Lunch is on us."

As my family called and texted each other, we fondly said, "Only a worldwide pandemic could stop Bonnie.”

When her neurologist found out, he said, "I've never had a stronger patient. She was so spunky and liked to tell me what was best for her."

One med-tech told me, "I loved Bonnie, even though we butted heads many times." And I said, "Sounds like my teenage years with her." And we chuckled together.

For those of you who have been on this writing journey with me for a while, you know I'm an optimistic person. I focus on gratitude, and my glass is (almost) always half full. I go out of my way to be generous because the happiness of others brings me joy. I believe life is funny and that most truths are funnier than fiction. Right now, though, I am in a dark place that I haven't been to before in my fifty years.

I am angry, and I am bitter.

But I don't want to be.

My heart aches and longs for my mother. My heart aches for my family. My heart aches for the ALC team that has been so steadfast, diligent, and caring. But my heart has been broken by our loss of humanity.

Please, please, please, wear a mask and practice social distancing. My mom didn't die alone yesterday. Thousands of others died too. How many lives will it take for people to wear a mask? Whose life must it take for you to wear a mask if you don't wear one already?

Wearing a mask is the single most simple act of kindness.

I'm not sure when I'll write again. I will be focusing hard on happy memories to help guide my healing. But please know that I wish you a healthy, happy and sane holiday.

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