This picture arrived on my phone, anonymously. The sender’s phone number is not one I recognize. Puzzled, I stare at the picture for some minutes, looking for some clue that might suggest who it is.
So, I txt the phone number. ‘Who is this and who are you.’ I wait while staring at the picture. No response.
Again, I ponder the picture carefully. This person is all moon-suited up as if they’re in the midst of something very contagious; or about to be. Considering we’re in the middle of the age of COVID-19, it may be a virus, and this person is dressed for protection.
With nothing else to do, I decide to make this my new life’s calling. I must figure out who this person is. It will be like solving a crime scene — a ‘Who Dunn it’ with very few clues to go on. I look at my phone- still no response. No one is confessing.
I can eliminate half of all possible people by determining the sex of the individual. With all the garb and the face covered up with what appears to be multiple masks (and I thought there was a shortage), I have very little to go on. I attempt to run through all my stereotypes as to how people stand. Is that a male stand or a female stand? Hand on hips suggest a woman. Legs slightly spread suggest a man. The subtle tilt of the head suggests a female. The head mesh looks like its covering a thick head of hair. That could go either way. So, I hold the phone back a ways and attempt to take it all in. Then I try just taking quick glances at it. Then the subtleties hit me. The person is a female.
The next big question is: how old is she? The ‘granny’ glasses throw me a bit. But the head, the smooth facial skin what little I can see, the proportions of the body would indicate a youngish woman. But I’ll have to remain a bit open about actual age. So much is covered up.
With most youngish people cowering in corners panicked by COVID and told to stay home, I can eliminate all of them. This person appears to be in the lion’s den with an infectious disease and determined to do battle. Look at her stance. There is an attitude there that says, ‘folks, this is a dangerous job, but someone has to do it, and it might as well be me.’ Defiant. Courageous. But with enough respect for the enemy to protect herself. Hopefully, it’s enough.
I look down at my phone. Still no confession.
I’m drawn to the thought of how much courage it must take for someone to crawl into the same room with someone with a raging, highly contagious virus. Viruses are opportunistic little bastards. They find any number of ways to take residency in a new host. This person knows that. She knows exactly what she is dealing with. Look at the tilt of her head. It’s resolute, determined, resigned to her calling, with but a hint of fear. Perhaps there is more fear than I can see. If so, I would completely understand.
There’s a good chance this person is either a doctor or an RN. Not just anyone can care for a COVID patient and from what I hear, very few are willing. With no family allowed to hold the hand or provide emotional support, the sick suffer alone. This person, along with her medical team, will possibly be the only human contact the patient will have until they leave the hospital one way or the other.
Still no confession. I am now nearly agitated with not knowing who this person is. I must find out.
I go back to my phone and txt, ‘WHO ARE YOU?’ in all caps.
I recommit to my mission. I take inventory of everything I’m seeing. This person is likely on the front line of the COVID-19 battle. She’s providing aid and comfort to those battling for their lives. She must stare down fear and suppress her instincts for self-preservation so that others might have a chance to continue with their lives.
When her shift is over, she’ll untie her bags for shoes, unwrap all the mesh and netting, and go home. Her sleep is likely haunted by the possibility the virus found a way in. Tomorrow, she’ll do it again.
Then my phone dings. It startles me out of my journey of Who Dunn it. ‘Hey dad, that’s me. Another nurse took the pic and sent it to you. Could you tell it was me?’
It’s Lindsay, my youngest daughter. I should have known. I am such a ding-bat.
Lindsay is an RN at Virginia Mason Memorial Hospital in Yakima, WA. She has substantial experience working with people who have highly contagious diseases. While in Boston, she worked for a clinic that provided healthcare to those with AIDS, and LIME disease, and other infectious diseases. It’s just the kind of person she is.