Finding Community in Isolation

by Elizabeth Fortune, freelance writer and ESRD patient

Some days, the quarantine seems normal; some days it hits me in a way that makes me think, “what in the world is going on?!” As I told my husband one day last week, this is not our first experience with hard things.

The truth is, my husband and I are not strangers to self-quarantine. We’ve been isolating ourselves off and on since 2011, when I was diagnosed with cancer. In fact, we had already been self-isolating since late January following a rather lengthy hospital stay. When I was released from the hospital, the flu was really ramping up, so we were avoiding public places and people out of an abundance of caution anyway.

I told him there was a silver lining in this quarantine.  We were in the comfort of our own home, with our cat, our own food, and all the things we enjoy keeping us comforted and entertained. I reminded him we were not in the hospital seven hours from home, away from family, away from friends. We can drive and see family from the safe distance of our car. We’re enjoying cooking and baking together and trying new recipes. We’re trying to make the best of the situation.

Our number one goal every day is to keep both of us healthy, specifically my husband. While I am the patient, I worry about my husband, who’s my caregiver, getting sick and in turn making me sick. To this end, face masks are an important step to protecting us.

We do dialysis at home every night, and we both wear masks as we hook up my machine. In March, I received a message from my dialysis clinic saying we had to now reuse these masks because they were out and were unable to order more. I was quite upset by this message and I took to Facebook to voice my concern.

My intention with posting was to let my friends know that not being able to get supplies to stay healthy affected someone they knew and wasn’t just a fake news story. Immediately, I had friends reaching out to me about making me some cloth masks that my husband and I could wash and reuse. I was absolutely blown away by the generosity of my community. I took two friends up on their offer and within two days we had the masks we needed. It was amazing how quickly people offered to help. It also warmed my heart to know I had friends making these masks for other patients in need. Since receiving these cloth masks, my clinic has made changes to help protect patients, allowing them to order masks with their monthly dialysis delivery to help them remain safe and healthy.

It can be tough to stay positive in these challenging times, but I try to find even small things to be thankful for. There several things I like to focus on. I am not in the hospital, and I have a great group of loved ones helping me and my husband so that neither of us has to risk going out in public. I’m enjoying the time to read and knit without feeling like I should be doing something else and doing those little projects around the house that we just had yet to make time for.

I’m also thankful for a community of others who know what it’s like to be in a similar health situation who I can talk to; it helps me feel a little less alone in this world. What are you thankful for during the pandemic?

 

Elizabeth Fortune lives in Little Rock, Ark., with her husband Griffin, and their cat Mr. Meowington. She was diagnosed with ESRD in April 2014 following a lengthy treatment for cancer, which involved a full bone marrow transplant. She has been on dialysis since. She and her husband started a nonprofit in 2015 providing trips for cancer survivors. She is also a freelance writer and media relations specialist.