Jerry Nelson: The COVID-19 blues

Jerry Nelson
Special to the Farm Forum

As the captain of the Titanic could attest, things can go swimmingly until they suddenly don’t.

Things had been going swimmingly for my wife and me regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. We have been diligently wearing masks whenever we went grocery hunting. We have been giving other humans a wide berth, as if they were all carrying locked-and-loaded skunks. We have sanitized our hands so often that the smell of Purell has become a comforting aroma.

Then I attended a small family gathering. We all know one another well, so nobody wore a mask. Two days later, one of the attendees tested positive for COVID-19.

There are those who claim that wearing a mask is an infringement of their freedoms. Bull feathers.

We are required to wear seat belts when we drive and to carry insurance on our vehicles. We do these and similar things not only because they are good for ourselves, but also because they are good for everyone.

If you can’t see the value of wearing a mask during a global pandemic, I can’t help you.

I’ve spoken with people who have espoused the view that COVID-19 isn’t real or that it really isn’t all that bad. It’s is no worse than the flu, they say. Baloney.

I have a buddy who spent two weeks in the ICU due to COVID-19. You should ask him if he thinks it’s real. As I write this, more than 180,000 American lives have been snuffed out by COVID-19 in the past six months. You should ask the grieving families if COVID-19 is real.

Comparing the flu to COVID-19 is like comparing apples to a tiger. Last year, according to the CDC, approximately 35,000 Americans succumbed to the flu.

If you can’t tell the difference between 35,000 and 180,000, I can’t help you.

I’ll gladly roll up my sleeve the moment a vaccine that has been proven safe and effective becomes available. Farmers have continued to vaccinate their animals for the past 140 years because a.) it’s better if an animal doesn’t get sick in the first place, and b.) it’s better if an animal doesn’t get sick and die.

For those who scoff at vaccines, I say this: because of vaccines, I have never had to endure diphtheria or lockjaw. I have, however, suffered through measles and chickenpox. Given a choice, I would have much rather had a little jab in the arm.

People who poo-pooh vaccines should talk to someone who has had polio. Ask the polio victim about their paralysis or their malformed limb. Then ask yourself if this is something you would want for your family.

If you can’t see the value of vaccines, I can’t help you.

I am among the few — but growing — number of people who know what it’s like to be on a ventilator.

About 30 years ago, I entered a manure pit and inhaled hydrogen sulfide. The toxic gas instantly rendered me unconscious. The caustic nature of hydrogen sulfide damaged the lining of my lungs. I spent most of a month hooked up to a ventilator.

I know what it’s like to have the rise and fall of your chest dictated by a bedside machine. I know what it’s like to have your lungs suctioned, a torturous process that involves a small tube probing around in your bronchial passages in the search of blood clots.

I don’t care to repeat any part of that experience.

Odds are that my wife and I will be fine. If we do become infected, we likely won’t become seriously ill. If we do become seriously ill, we will likely recover. But given a choice, I would rather not have played the odds.

Everyone has a tiny hypochondriac living inside them. Mine has grown to the size of the Incredible Hulk.

“Does my breathing sound weird?” I anxiously asked my wife the other day.

She examined me and exclaimed, “Good Lord! Your nose hair is out of control! It looks like you’ve snorted woolly bear caterpillars. Hold still while I get the weed whacker.”

Another worrisome symptom cropped up the next morning.

“Look at this,” I said to my wife mournfully. “I bet this is it! It’s the beginning of the end!”

She glanced at my hand and said, “As far as I know, nobody has ever died of a hangnail.”

As of this writing, we are living in a self-quarantined limbo while awaiting our test results. I am passing the time by frequently checking on our Jersey steers and puttering around with my John Deere 3010 tractor.

And if you can’t see the value in that, I can’t help you.

Jerry Nelson