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Letters from the Homefront: Fighting the Dark Side

The following “Letters from the Homefront” account is part of our new initiative, Collecting in Quarantine. Inspired by the poignant letters in the Maryland Historical Society collection documenting past adversities from the Spanish flu of 1918, to the Annapolis yellow fever epidemics of 1793 and 1800, MdHS is calling on Marylanders to send their personal stories of how the pandemic is impacting their lives.

Johns Hopkins Hospital
Our contributor spent a lot of time in hospitals during the month of March trying to determine if her husband has Covid-19. “Aerial View of Johns Hopkins Hospital Group,” undated, Postcard Collection, H. Furlong Baldwin Library, Maryland Historical Society.

March 20, 2020 – On this day, Betsy from Baltimore County writes:

Stuart woke up today with difficult breathing. That is no different than most days for the past four weeks, but this time it didn’t get better as the day went on. In fact, it got worse.

He has finished the Tamiflu given to him from our last visit to the hospital one week ago, and almost done with the Doxyclyclin [sic] the doctor gave to him two weeks ago, and yet he was rapidly going downhill. Could not complete a sentence without taking a breath in the middle.

We called the COVID-19 hotline at Sinai Hospital. They asked a bunch of questions. His breathing sounded like Darth Vader and they said he needed to be seen by doctor ASAP. We were actually on the phone for quite awhile answering their questions and waiting for answers to Stuart’s questions “Should I come in by ambulance or should Betsy drive me (and then I’ll have to wait in the waiting room with other sick people)” and “What is the point of having a Corona virus test if there is not treatment for it anyway?”

The doc said it sounded like [Stuart] needed heavy oxygen therapy. They gave us a choice of where to go…Stu considers that he has a season ticket to GBMC. So off we went. Tents were set up outside of the emergency room entrance, so any suspected COVID-19 cases could be looked at right away.

Just before we got to the hospital, Stuart’s breathing got easier. Of course!

Stu was taken into a tent without even entering the building. He was the only patient in the tent the entire time, although the hospital staff said they expect numbers to grow rapidly and next week to be hectic. Inside the tent, they did all the tests. But no COVID-19 test — he has to go to Sinai hospital for that. Also, no oxygen treatment. They don’t want to get the germs in the air and his breathing was not so labored by them.

They sent Stuart home telling him to use the inhaler they gave him a week ago. They also told him he is now a PUI – “Person Under Investigation.” Tomorrow, he has to make an appointment to go to Sinai to get a COVID-19 test. They only will give you the test if you make an appointment ahead of time with their hot line and come with a doctor’s note. But, Stuart finally has a doctor’s note (from GBMC) so he should be tested tomorrow. I’ll believe it when I see it, however.

We are now both officially quarantined until April 3. Except to go the doctor, etc.

March 23, 2020 – On this day, Betsy from Baltimore County writes:

‘Darth Vader’ returns! Stu is again having difficulty – it seems much worse in the morning. We called the COVID hotline to see if they have results…Although the hand-out that Stuart got when taking the test said, “The results will come back in 3-4 days”, we were just told that the results won’t be available for 8 business days.

When I expressed dismayed surprise she responded that because of the high volume of testing, the system is overwhelmed and they are doing the best they can. It will now take up to eight business days to get an answer and we will receive a phone call as soon as the results are known.

I am writing these long posts not only out of my concern for Stuart, but also I think it is important to document what is going on around us. It is a scandal that our country could have been prepared, but our elected leaders chose to look the other way. The lies which are still being blatantly conveyed during press conferences (which are supposedly meant to reassure us) are just obfuscations which confuse people. Knowing what to expect is reassuring; when your personal experience contradicts what the President and Vice President of the US are saying, something is terribly wrong.

Stuart says I should be more nuanced: “At least in yesterday’s daily briefings, the president gave actual figures which were impressive of the response of the federal authorities.” He does not get a sense of solace from hearing the president speak. “Nevertheless, late, inadequate, and disorganized as it is, the response is gathering steam. This is a war against an invisible enemy and the power of the American private industry and government forces are being somewhat corralled towards dealing with the harsh reality.”

As for me, I am just furious.

Please note: The views, information, and opinions expressed and shared on the underbelly through the Collecting in Quarantine project do not necessarily represent those of the Maryland Historical Society. Our staff does not verify for accuracy the information contained within these submissions. We also do not edit the content beyond minor modifications for formatting or to remove personally identifying information, if applicable. Just like the historic letters in our collection, each letter presents the writer’s own perspective. The primary purpose of this series, with the permission of contributors, is to share and collect the experiences of Marylanders living through the COVID-19 crisis at this moment in time.

To learn more about the Collecting in Quarantine project and how to share a story of your own, click here.