Back in March, back when COVID-19 had barely reached the shores of the United States (at least as far as we knew), the message largely shared about COVID-19 was that it affects older people and folks with underlying conditions. The message was if you’re relatively young and healthy, you’ll be fine.
The message was, in essence, that young and healthy folks should quarantine not because they were in danger, but because as a society, we had to work together to stop the spread (although in March, we talked in terms of flattening the curve) so as to not overwhelm the hospital system. Many young and healthy folks listened to the directive. Many others didn’t.
The message was wrong.
Or, more accurately, as the information we had on the virus ravaging our country evolved, we learned that initial message needed to be modified. Because young and healthy folks were getting infected by the virus, and they were dying. And as it turns out, young and healthy folks can, and do, die of COVID-19.
Despite the new and updated information, so many young and healthy folks have refused to listen to the revised messaging and have decided to go about their lives as if they are invincible, as if the virus cannot touch them beyond a mild, cold-like illness. Maybe because…well, because death is simply too scary and too hard to define in ways that make sense. Maybe because discussing death is uncomfortable and no one wants to be uncomfortable. Maybe because acknowledging death means acknowledging you’re not invincible, and no one wants to feel vulnerable, or powerless, or impermanent.
And yet, scary does not mean untrue. Just because something is scary and hard to face, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t. Not only is this mentality selfish, it’s also dangerous.
Cleavon Gilman, MD, an Arizona ER Doctor and Iraq war vet fighting on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, began compiling a powerful thread highlighting the thousands of young lives lost to COVID-19 in an effort to spread awareness of the truth that COVID-19 does not discriminate in choosing its victims.
🧵As an ER doctor, I’ve seen firsthand #COVID19 indiscriminately young people. This ongoing thread is dedicated to the 1000s between 18 and 45 killed by COVID & ignored by Trump@realDonaldTrump:[They] don’t talk about deaths, because deaths are WAY downpic.twitter.com/8qfLAcM5Tc
— Cleavon Gilman, MD🌵 (@Cleavon_MD) July 10, 2020
Among the victims Dr. Gilman has highlighted are:
Ben Luderer, a 30-year-old healthy baseball coach from New Jersey, and;
Dan Spano, a 30-year-old personal trainer whose family said goodbye over iPad;
Dulce Garcia, a 29-year-old interpreter for UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill;
Alexandra Nicole Farer, a 27-year-old nurse in Atlanta, Georgia;
Keith Taylor, a 33-year-old who worked at Waffle House and died just ten days after symptoms became serious;
Allie Guidry, a 29-year-old pregnant woman in Baton Rouge, Louisiana;
Shawna Johnson, a Navy vet and mother of three in her thirties, who worked as a Frontline Navajo Nation Nurse, and;
Israel Sauz, a 22-year-old new father who worked at a gas station.
In addition to Dr. Gilman’s extensive list, CNN reported the story of Conrad Buchanan, a healthy 39-year-old DJ with no underlying conditions, who died without ever having the chance to say goodbye to his young wife and daughter.
The tragic story of Broadway star Nick Cordero was one followed by millions of people. Young and full of life, Nick’s story captivated so many as they followed along and donated to the GoFundMe his wife established for his care, which required ventilators and medically-induced comas, leg amputations, and too many days full of heartbreaks to count.
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God has another angel in heaven now. My darling husband passed away this morning. He was surrounded in love by his family, singing and praying as he gently left this earth. ⠀ I am in disbelief and hurting everywhere. My heart is broken as I cannot imagine our lives without him. Nick was such a bright light. He was everyone’s friend, loved to listen, help and especially talk. He was an incredible actor and musician. He loved his family and loved being a father and husband. Elvis and I will miss him in everything we do, everyday. ⠀ To Nicks extraordinary doctor, Dr. David Ng, you were my positive doctor! There are not many doctors like you. Kind, smart, compassionate, assertive and always eager to listen to my crazy ideas or call yet another doctor for me for a second opinion. You’re a diamond in the rough. ⠀ ⠀ I cannot begin to thank everyone enough for the outpour of love , support and help we’ve received these last 95 days. You have no idea how much you lifted my spirits at 3pm everyday as the world sang Nicks song, Live Your Life. We sang it to him today, holding his hands. As I sang the last line to him, “they’ll give you hell but don’t you light them kill your light not without a fight. Live your life,” I smiled because he definitely put up a fight. I will love you forever and always my sweet man. ❤️
And the truth is, even if young and healthy folks aren’t dying, they are being left gravely ill, and possibly forever changed. COVID-19 can cause strokes which leave young and healthy folks debilitated or dead, even if they never showed traditional symptoms. The Washington Post reported the story of a 44-year-old patient with no history of chronic conditions and on no medications. The patient had come into the ER because he was having trouble speaking and moving one side of his body. Testing revealed a blockage in his brain. He’d suffered a stroke—while at home and feeling fine. A diagnostic test revealed he was positive for COVID-19.
A letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine provided information on five patients, all under 50, who’d been at home when they experienced stroke-like symptoms. At the time of the letter, one patient had died, two were still hospitalized, and only the 33-year-old woman was able to speak. All tested positive for COVID-19. None were granted immunity from this virus’s harsher impacts simply because of their age or relative health status.
When reading these names and these stories, it’s impossible to believe that COVID-19 doesn’t affect young and healthy folks. It’s impossible to continue seeing this virus as something that happens to other people. And, it’s impossible to continue operating under the false assumption that you, or your young and healthy friend, brother, sister, partner, will be invincible, should the virus come for you next.
Every life lost to this disease is a tragedy. Every life lost because someone else chose to believe they were invincible is a horror. And every life lost because of this disease deserves to be remembered and honored—and the best way to honor those who have passed is to stop pretending the thing that took their lives doesn’t exist.
COVID-19 is real. It’s killing folks. And no one is invincible.