Thoughts on COVID


Noor Baber, Staff Writer

I was wheeled into a cold, sterile room. The doctors transferred me to the operating bed, smothering me with warm blankets. 

The anesthesiologist smiled at me. 

“I’m going to give you a special anesthesia mask to wear— this will make you fall asleep. What flavor of air do you want for the mask: watermelon, cherry, or vanilla?”

I thought for a moment. “Watermelon, please.”

The anesthesiologist strapped the mask over my face. Anesthesia flooded the mask. It smelled nothing like watermelon.

“Now, keep counting until you fall asleep.”

One, two, three, four, five… I fell asleep before I could reach ten.

This memory was from one of the first major surgeries I have had that I can remember.

 I was born with a rare genetic condition that puts me at a high risk for certain cancers, so I have routine check-ups every several months.

What was a routine scan in Aug. of 2016 turned into a moment that I will never forget. In my thyroid scan, my doctors found a benign tumor that had almost become Stage 1 cancer. It had not developed yet, but the word “cancer” still terrified me. 

After months of collaborating with hospitals in other states, the doctors at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles decided to do a thyroidectomy, and remove the butterfly-shaped organ in my neck.

I woke up in a dim room, on a hospital bed. My body ached, and I couldn’t speak. The nurse in my room held out a popsicle for me to eat, but as I ate, I felt a stabbing pain in my neck. I couldn’t help it—I cried.

Throughout my whole life, I’ve never been a very healthy kid. A list of pre-existing conditions meant that I got sick a lot, and I still do. When the coronavirus pandemic began and everything got shut down, I was stuck in the house. Being immunocompromised, I couldn’t risk getting sick if I went out. 

The beginning months of quarantine were quite stressful. My first year of high school was coming to a close, and AP exams loomed ahead of me. 

One day, my family and I decided to drive around the neighborhood. As we drove by the Westfield Valencia Town Center, I saw something that I had never seen before.

A crowd of people stood at Valencia Blvd. and McBean Pkwy., protesting the stay-at-home order in Los Angeles. Hardly anyone in the crowd wore masks or heeded social distancing measures. There were a plethora of signs, with phrases such as “FREEDOM IS ESSENTIAL,” “No safety without freedom,” and “All Work is Essential.” 

These events have most certainly not been occurring only in Santa Clarita.

In April, the nation watched in horror as a crowd entered the Capitol building in Michigan, protesting the stay-at-home order issued by Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The crowd was mostly maskless, and some were armed. 

When I don’t see protests, I see countless videos of people who refuse to wear masks, declaring that it is an infringement upon their personal rights.

I have to point out the irony of it all. As I watch these videos on the news, it truly frightens me. As people scream “Freedom is essential,” or “COVID-19 is a hoax,” I have been confined to my house for the past year, afraid to go outside, lest I get sick. Seeing these events happen has made me feel even less safe, as those who do not believe in the coronavirus endanger the lives of everyone they come across, including those with immunocompromising conditions.

It is infuriating to see so many people denying a virus that has killed more than 518,000 Americans. It is saddening to see people gathering without masks or distancing, while others are sick in the Intensive Care Unit.

It makes me upset to see that there are so many who believe that the coronavirus is a political farce— because it isn’t.

When I woke up in the hospital, I knew that I would have to stay for several nights. 

It felt like I was stuck in a nightmare.

I was exhausted to the point that I could hardly move, and every time I had to get out of bed was a long and complicated task. I could hardly speak, and eating was virtually impossible. 

I was on bedrest in a room overlooking downtown Los Angeles for several days. I slept in a hospital bed, and my mom slept beside me in a bed by the window. 

The only thing that I could do was watch TV on the screen attached to my bed. I practically memorized the words of Despicable Me and Dolphin Tale.

I was hooked up to an IV, and nurses were constantly coming into my room. When I tried to get whatever sleep I could, I was woken up every couple of hours to check my vitals, or take another blood sample.

Even with the therapy dogs making rounds through the inpatient care, I felt no better. 

Around me, there were so many other children who were admitted to the hospital, for reasons similar to mine— a major operation or  a chronic illness.

After only two days, I broke down crying. I couldn’t take it anymore— I wanted to go home.

Luckily, my doctors deemed that I was recovering well, and I was discharged the next morning.

But this experience is one that I will never forget. 

And it is one that I would never want anyone else to go through.

For this very reason, it is heartbreaking to see that a year into this pandemic, there are still so many who are not heeding COVID-19 guidelines.

Contrary to the belief of some, the coronavirus is not a sham, and the government did not make it up. It is very real, and it is infecting and killing thousands every day.

During the course of the pandemic, we have seen that the coronavirus has affected every patient differently. Some people, both young and old, fall extremely ill, some do not experience any symptoms whatsoever.

The measures recommended by the Center for Disease Control and the precautions put in place by the government are instituted simply to protect us. Stay-at-home orders and lockdowns are put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19 and to prevent people from getting sick. Vaccines are created to protect people from serious illness. Masks and protective equipment are supposed to be used in order to ensure that people who are interacting do not spread particles which may contain the virus.

Since COVID-19 is so widespread, going outside always entails a certain risk. That being said, those who refuse to wear a mask or take the most basic safety precautions put themselves and others at an even greater risk when stepping outside.

The people who ignore the possible health complications of COVID-19 are taking their life for granted. 

COVID-19 is very real. 

Anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers, and COVID-19 deniers are risking their health in the midst of a global pandemic that has killed more than 2.6 million people. Those who refuse to acknowledge this pandemic are taking their lives for granted. 

Take it from me— having to stay in the hospital for an extended period of time is not a pleasant experience. A major diagnosis can change your life in an instant. It’s an experience that stays with you, and you never forget it.

Trust in the guidelines and safety protocols being put in place. Staying inside will help prevent COVID-19 from spreading.

Trust the science. More vaccines are being delivered, and they are being shown to be effective against severe illness. Studies have repeatedly shown that wearing masks and taking basic health precautions can help protect people from COVID-19.

I understand that this past year has been extremely long, and people are tired, but that does not mean we can ignore safety protocols completely. We have to continue to stay safe during these unprecedented times so that hopefully, we can come out of this pandemic soon, eventually returning to some degree of normalcy.