We Are Now Departing From Our Comfort Zone

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by Samuel Kirton |

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Face mask: check. COVID-19 vaccine card: check. Extra mask: check. Electronic vaccination card: check. Anxiety: check.

More than 25 months after the start of the pandemic, my wife, Susan, and I returned to the theater.

The National Theatre, located in the heart of Washington, D.C., has always been beautiful. Though I’ve been there many times over the years, it all seemed new on our recent visit. A lovely Saturday in April set the stage for a matinee performance of “Come From Away.”

Planning to exhale

An outside observer might have thought Susan and I were planning for a large-scale tactical operation. No detail of our outing was too minor for consideration, especially in light of my double-lung transplant and pulmonary fibrosis.

The venue had established its own rules. All guests were required to wear an appropriate mask for the entire time they were in the theater. Guests also had to provide proof of being fully vaccinated along with photo identification.

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We reserved parking in advance to avoid circling the area looking for the perfect spot. The application that reserved the space also allowed us to scan a QR code on my smartphone for contactless payment to enter and exit the parking garage.

Finally, we checked the MLB schedule to ensure the Washington Nationals were not playing at home that day. That could have a major impact on travel time into or out of the District of Columbia. Fortunately, the Nationals were away in Pittsburgh.

Preparing to exhale

The day had arrived. We were heading to the theater. Just prior to departing the house, there was time for one last traffic and weather check.

The weather looked great, but the traffic report brought to light a new challenge. The 2022 Emancipation Day Parade was being held that day and would end at the plaza directly in front of the National.

We realized the streets would be crowded, especially as we were exiting the theater. Adjusting on the fly, we decided to wear masks, even outdoors, when social distancing could not be maintained.

Waiting to exhale

This was the first time in more than two years we knowingly entered a crowded venue. As we approached the theater, we could see people queueing up to enter through the front doors. At the front of two parallel rope lines stood masked staff members, ready to compare our photo identification to our vaccine card. Masks were required from the time you entered the rope lines.

Once inside the National, we took an elevator to the mezzanine level to reach our seats, but there was a line of people waiting for the doors to open. This was where we received a sign that we cross paths with people for a reason.

We stood in line behind a group of four. What started out as small talk about finally being able to attend a theater performance turned into a surprise. When I mentioned having to isolate since the beginning of the pandemic and receiving a double-lung transplant last summer, I made an instant connection. The woman, whose name I didn’t get, is an intensive care unit nurse at Inova Fairfax Hospital, where I receive care. Her unit typically sees pre-transplant patients who require hospitalization, so she hadn’t visited with a post-transplant patient. That changed with our chance meeting.

We exhaled

Once in our seats, I felt like my head was on a swivel up to the moment they dimmed the house lights. Every single person I could see wore a mask. Sanitizer dispensers were available throughout the theater. The anxiety quickly began to dissipate.

“Come From Away” is a 100-minute production with no intermission. The energy of the theater was as inspiring as the story. By the time the house lights came back on, it was hard to believe it was over already.

comfort zone | Pulmonary Fibrosis News | Sam and Susan take a selfie inside The National Theatre in Washington, D.C. They are in their seats, wearing face masks, and holding the playbill for "Come From Away."

Susan and I missed the theater. (Photo by Sam Kirton)

After-action review

As an immunosuppressed, post-transplant patient, I did not take this outing lightly. Having received three doses of the Moderna vaccine and EvuSheld antibody therapy provided some reassurance, but my anxiety still produced a palpable buzz. This was a huge step outside of our comfort zone, but we’re glad we did it safely and continue to make every breath count.

How do you safely step outside of your comfort zone? Please share in the comments.


Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.

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