COVID-19 and the Live and Let Die syndrome

Let’s say I contract COVID-19.

And let’s say I’m in a hospital bed, struggling for what might be my final breath. Someone half my age, also in last-gasp mode, is bedded down in the room next to mine. We both need a ventilator. There’s only one available.

So which of us lives and which of us dies?

Well, a rousing game of rock, scissors, paper to claim dibs on the ventilator is out of the question because, hey, we’re dying and I’m not prepared to squander my final wheeze on a silly schoolyard/pub game. So, what, we leave it up to the medics to decide? Nope. Not moi. I insist that the 35-year-old live on.

Which means, yes, I’m quite prepared to die, and I’d rather spare any doctor the uncomfortable dilemma of making the COVID-19 choice of live and let die.

Death doesn’t frighten me, you see.

Actually, I don’t think anyone truly fears death. The fear is in not living any longer. We fear leaving before we have fulfilled a dream, or before saying what needs to be said, or before counting all of our money. We fear the loss of those external elements that we believe make us who we are. We fear death of self before death itself.

But is death not the ultimate confirmation that we have lived? Without death, there is no complete life.

I’m now in my 70th lap around ol’ Sol, and mortality has dogged me for the past 20 years. It’s what happens when we arrive at a certain station of life and, for me, that was age 50, when the angels began to collect former newspaper colleagues, honorable adversaries and dear friends at an alarming rate.

Gone are Matty and Pick and Witt and Gus and Jon and Shawn and Abby and Robby and Skull and Siggy and Reyn and Shaky and the Baron and Trent and Jeems and Milt and Chester and Cowboy and Bish and Billy P—all 20 of them leaving since the turn of the century, which doesn’t seem that long ago. I admired those people and learned something about journalism from each of them in different ways. What to do, what not to do, how to do it, how not to do it. Some valuable life lessons were tossed into the mix, as well.

And that’s only a partial list of the dearly departed. It doesn’t include the numerous sports figures—Fergy, Baiz, Moosie, Frank McKinnon, Vic Peters, etc.—with whom I once shared space and oxygen. Nor fellow elbow-benders like wee Des, Georgie Boy and Hillbilly John. Again, all gone in the past 20 years.

I don’t dwell on death, but it is a constant for those of my vintage, and never more so than now, with the COVID-19 body count rising each day.

Medics like B.C.’s top doc, Dr. Bonnie Henry, talk about an “ethical framework” that determines who does and who doesn’t get a ventilator if we reach crunch time during the pandemic, but I prefer to take it out of their hands.

If it’s between me and someone with plenty of runway remaining, I’m good to go.

Donald Trump

So, Donald Trump wants to see activity in the playground “very soon,” and the American president believes it will be business as usual for the National Football League in September. “I want fans back in the arenas…whenever we’re ready, I mean, as soon as we can, obviously. And the fans want to be back, too. They want to see basketball and baseball and football and hockey,” he told news snoops on Saturday. Well, that’s a warm-and-fuzzy sentiment, but also extremely unicorn-ish and full of fairy dust. “Nobody gives a shit (about sports) right now…better to turn hockey rinks into makeshift hospitals or morgues,” says Dr. Alan Drummond of the Canadian Association of Emergency Room Physicians. So there.

If Donald Trump refuses to ship 3M protective masks to our Canadian health workers, I say we recall Neil Young, Alex Trebek and the Stanley Cup. But they have to keep Celine Dion, Howie Mandel and Nickelback.

Most of us follow our personal doctors’ advice. I mean, if told to take two aspirin and call ol’ sawbones in the morning, I take two aspirin and make that call. Yet when the finest medical minds in our country advise us what to do (stay the frig home) during the COVID-19 crisis, they are ignored by many among the rabble. I find that to be a most curious bit of business. Even more curious: Why would it take a celebrity athlete, singer or movie star doing a PSA to convince some that the safest place to be right now is behind our own closed doors? Seriously, you’ll listen to, say, Connor McDavid instead of Dr. Theresa Tam? The mind boggles.

Ashley (DeadEye) Jones

On the subject of boggled minds, mine went for a shake, rattle and roll the other day when I happened upon something called Swamp People during a channel surfing expedition. Yowzas. What some folks won’t do for a buck. They get their kicks—and earn a healthy portion of their yearly income—by grabbing guns and hunting alligators in the thick of the Atchafalaya River Basin swamps in Louisiana every September. Not surprisingly, most of the Swamp People are men, but one woman was featured on the show, and I can guarantee you that Ashley (DeadEye) Jones is someone you want on your side when the fur starts to fly. Working solo on an air boat, she tagged three gators and lived to talk about it over some Cajun cooking. Truthfully, I didn’t know people like this even existed, but these ‘gator trolls have been on the History Channel for 11 years.

Tough times continue to hit the rag trade due to COVID-19, and the Winnipeg Free Press has asked workers to take a 12-to-20 per cent whack to their wages. Publisher Bob Cox took the lead, with a 50 per cent slash to his salary, and we can only wonder what newspapers will look like when we break through to the other side of this thing. Many won’t make it.

About two weeks ago, columnist Steve Simmons of Postmedia Tranna was bragging about a 20-page sports section in the Toronto Sun, at the same time ridiculing the Toronto Star for running just two pages of sports coverage. It was a disturbing and tone-deaf boast. Today, the Sun has shrunk from 20 pages to 12 pages of nothing worth reading, with no section cover. Like the aforementioned Dr. Alan Drummond submits, “Nobody gives a shit (about sports).”

If you’re having trouble coping with self-isolation, consider that this is how many of our seniors live year-round. It might be health/mobility reasons that keep them inside, in might be financial, it might be a lack of motivation to get out and about. Whatever the case, many seniors are out of sight, but that doesn’t mean they should be out of mind. Give a kind thought to our elderly. They’ve earned it.

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