On Nov. 20, I was anchoring NBC News Now from noon to 2 p.m. By 3 p.m., I was in an emergency room describing symptoms of chest pressure, slight shortness of breath, elevated blood pressure and a pulse that rose much too high with even slight exertion. I did not have Covid-19; rather, I had rushed from the NBC News studio at 30 Rock straight to the ER because I was afraid I was having a heart attack.
First of all, I’m fine. I had a few more days of the small palpitations that had been bothering me — noticeable but never painful, reminding me that my body was working harder than it should. The slight, breathy feeling — almost like a thin vapor in my lungs — is also gone.
More than 1 million Americans flew this Thanksgiving — fewer than we would have had without the coronavirus, but the most recorded by the TSA since March. This happened despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cautioning people to stay home, and despite fast-rising numbers of new cases across the country.
I took that trip to the hospital when I feared the worst. And believe me: a hospital is not where you want to be right now.
But planning holiday travel is not the trip you should be thinking about. It’s the trip to the hospital following a potential Covid-19 diagnosis. Hospitals around the country are now bracing for a surge in cases that will hit ERs and ICUs once infections contracted during Thanksgiving travel have had time to incubate.
I took that trip to the hospital when I feared it the worst. And believe me: A hospital is not where you want to be right now. One nurse had to wheel me from the ER to another room, just to have enough space to physically put in an IV line. It was the “resuscitation room,” a space for reviving people who cannot breathe. It looked eerily like a coroner’s lab: stainless steel paneling and stretchers with crisp, white sheets.
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow recently shared that her longtime partner was battling Covid-19, a battle that at one point looked like she would lose. Maddow endured the torment that millions of families have had to endure: trying to help keep a loved one alive, from a safe distance. We should all be so lucky to be loved so unabashedly, so — this is Maddow’s word — desperately, as she described her love for her partner of 21 years. Maddow tested negative, but remained in quarantine for the suggested two weeks.
As I said before, I’m fine. Tests run in the ER the day of my hospital visit showed no signs of heart damage, and no indications of a heart attack. By the time I left, my blood pressure reading was better than normal. I won’t need surgery or a stent or anything like that. In fact, one of the main things I have to be more diligent about is drinking water. My heart was working extra-hard partly because my blood was getting too thick. Just over half of your blood is plasma, and nearly all of that plasma is water.
This is a rough time to be in a hospital, medically or emotionally. The day I went to the ER, I put off calling my mother until I knew that I was being admitted to a regular hospital room. I was afraid of making her panic with the thought that I was just in limbo. The idea of forcing my mom to put the need to keep herself safe from Covid-19 over her need to see me through an emergency in person — I could not bear that.
Let me tell you something: Someone loves you, desperately, and they would be destroyed if anything happened to you. Especially something that left them feeling as helpless as Covid-19 has made so many of us feel.
Why would you choose to not protect yourself, and potentially destroy someone who loves you? That’s a question I found myself asking when seeing reports of the wave of holiday travelers. Many of us are suffering from the isolation of this deadly pandemic. Some are letting that longing to gather with family and hug their loved ones override the practical actions that will literally save lives.
Why would you choose to not protect yourself, and potentially destroy someone who loves you?
This year, my family showed our love for one another by not gathering for Thanksgiving dinner. It was hard, but it would have been much harder knowing we had endangered the people we love. So I ask you, who is your reason for fighting Covid-19? And how are you keeping them safe as we enter this holiday season?
I had to go to the ER. If you don’t, why would you choose to? You are someone’s reason for being, the center of someone’s universe, the one and only person they would die for. You are precious to someone, and that someone would shatter in a million irreparable pieces if you didn't do everything you could to protect yourself from Covid-19.
We will gather again. One day.
Whether it’s in our home or in a hospital is up to us.