I’m not a parent. I don’t know what it’s like to be stuck at home with kids when they should be in school or try to find safe childcare when I’m at work, all while enduring the constant wavering of plans, policy, and schedules. It can’t be easy. But my spouse is a high school teacher and I have type 1 diabetes and asthma, two of the top three comorbidities in patients who have died
I haven’t been to a grocery store in four months. Now that cases are climbing just as the start of the school year is approaching and calls for reopening are blaring, we’re left wondering what we’re going to do. Sleep in separate bedrooms? Stop kissing? It would be a sad... however many months until there’s a vaccine, but it might be worth it. Teachers have a hard time getting students to take off a hat, put their phone away, and not leave dirty tissues on desks. Is it really going to be easy to get them not to shift their mask below their nose, or wear one at all? And I’ve cleaned those desks; the underside is a full-on biohazard.
A lot of able-bodied people with access to healthcare think this talk is hyperbole, but they clearly don’t have insight into the experiences of those at risk. On multiple occasions, I’ve had to muster every ounce of consciousness in the middle of the night to wake up my partner, who runs downstairs and back up with juice to treat a hypoglycemic episode (low blood sugar). In this state, I can’t see, I have very little muscle control, and severe confusion, and my spouse has saved my life. I’m afraid to sleep alone. I’m afraid to be in a hospital with someone else, even a medical professional, in charge of my insulin dosage. A slight overdose can kill me within about a half hour; not enough, and I’m at risk of ketoacidosis, which is potentially fatal after a few hours.
I’ve read that COVID-19 is causing high blood sugar, insulin resistance, and ketoacidosis in diabetics, all of which also cause respiratory distress. Diabetics are being advised to keep their blood sugar low, just in case. With insulin at a list price of roughly $300 per vial, which for me lasts less than 10 days, 26-45% of diabetics in the U.S. are rationing their insulin. Many people are losing jobs, housing, and health insurance; keeping blood sugar under control is almost impossible. (And no you can’t diet and exercise it away, and no, the $25 ‘Walmart insulin’ isn’t the solution.)
I have so many fears about schools reopening, and reopening in general. I fear for the teachers who may not survive the year, or endure worsening health. I fear for students with chronic illness and disabilities, and for parents with their own health issues. I worry about diabetics of all types who already have a lot to fret about, and Black diabetics tremendously underrepresented in our community and therefore commonly misdiagnosed and given inadequate treatment. I fear for marginalized people seeking care, often under treated, underinsured, and under prescribed to. I fear for healthcare workers who put themselves and their families in danger to help others.
I shouldn’t be surprised that in a country where healthcare is a luxury and health complications are often seen as the patient’s fault; there’s also an attitude of “if you don’t like it stay home” and “you can’t make me wear a mask” and “it’s OK because only people in poor health will die.” What we hear is you don’t care if we die.
Madison Rosenbaum is a photographer in the Tri-Cities. You can see her latest photo series, Tales From Home, at talesfromhomeseries.wordpress.com.