Remember the concept of noblesse oblige? That those in a place of privileged circumstance have a moral obligation to help others who are less fortunate?
That concept is being turned on its head, like everything else in the world right now.
I have been at the hospital since early this morning. Labs, EKG’s, infusion of saline and now drug. Long, long, weird day and it won’t end until evening.
This morning my nurse asked if I had driven myself from Amesbury to Boston. Yes, I replied. Two different friends had offered to help–one dropping me off, another picking me up and taking me home. But aside from the great inconvenience for them, I decided that I was likely safer driving in alone. I mean, social isolation is social isolation to the greatest degree possible and at this time, the only people I am spending any time with are those who are absolutely necessary–my oncology team.
Anyway, I explained to my nurse that given the fact that I would likely be denied a ventilator should I be unlucky enough to contract COVID-19, my best chance of survival was defense. I cannot get sick.
She replied with an anecdote illustrating that not everyone with COVID-19 wants to go the ventilator route, a reference to an older architect in a neighboring community. “How old?” I asked. 83. Old enough to be my father. And when I asked if he had survived she said no, ‘That’s why the paper did a story about him.”
Oh yes, I said. They like to suggest that it is a noble thing for those of us who are older or with a preexisting condition to step aside. And then, “Fuck that shit.”
“I haven’t been fighting like hell for fifteen years to stop trying now. I deserve a continuing chance at survival just like everyone else. Ask my friends. Ask my family.”
I imagine she was somewhat taken aback. But It is not on the cancer patient to demonstrate noblesse oblige. We are the vulnerable, not the privileged.
Obviously diplomacy isn’t my strong suit.
After she left the room I pulled the once warm blankets over my head and fantasized that in the sequel to Mad Max: Fury Road I would be cast as Charlize Theron’s long lost mom.
That’s a role I’m better suited to.