Losing a friend to COVID-19

About a month ago, one of my long time tai chi students sent me a text message. He had been exposed to COVID-19 and tested positive himself, so he would be missing classes for a while. Knowing that he is single and living alone, I tried to keep in touch with him every few days by text, but within about a week, he stopped responding. I was able to contact a close friend of his, and found that he was in the hospital. He was treated for low oxygen, then pneumonia, then blood clots. Finally, he was placed on a ventilator because his condition had gotten so bad, and he died a few hours later.

It was not a pleasant way to die. Gasping for air. Unbelievably thirsty. Confused from lack of oxygen. Scared. Alone.

He had not been vaccinated. I brought it up many times at tai chi class ever since he was eligible back in February, and every time, his response was the same. “I haven’t had a vaccine since I was a kid, and I never get sick.” His feathers were plainly ruffled by my questions. He wanted me to mind my own business. As his illness progressed, he changed his mind about vaccines, and was asking to see if there was still any chance of getting the shot. It was too late for prevention.

The person who infected him HAD been vaccinated. I did not hear anything about that COVID-19 patient, but being vaccinated, he presumably had a mild case and recovered. However, with the Delta variant, that did not prevent him from passing on a 100% virulent pathogen on to my friend, which proved lethal to him.

I suppose I have been fortunate, that this is the first time I have lost a friend to COVID-19. There have been deaths: friends of friends, or barely remembered family friends from long ago, but this is the first death amongst any of the people I am used to seeing routinely. It hurts. It makes me sad. It makes me think of the many years of good healthy life that my friend lost. He had his life all figured out. He was going to live the dream and die of old age on a beach in Thailand.

Please be careful. Please get the vaccine. Please wear masks, especially around people who might not be vaccinated, or who might have a weak immune system.

Even if you have been vaccinated, please continue to be careful. Things are different now – the virus is now more dangerous and more transmissible. You may be safe, but the Delta variant could still pass through you and go on to someone who is vulnerable.