Seeing Silver Linings During Social Isolation

Christie Patient avatar

by Christie Patient |

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hardest, caregiving, coping, healthcare workers, covid-19

Coronavirus news hasn’t gotten any less scary since I wrote about it two weeks ago. At the time of writing this column, the virus is in all 50 states and four U.S. territories. More than 100 U.S. citizens have died from the illness. I wasn’t planning to write about it again, but it seems to be all I can think about. Living in Washington state — or “ground zero” — has given me an interesting vantage point from which to watch the country respond to the pandemic.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the masses who were flooding to Costco and causing gridlock and chaos in the store. Aside from Americans who live in hurricane-prone areas, most people in the country probably could not relate to that experience. Now I imagine that most of you have a grocery gauntlet tale to tell.

When Governor Jay Inslee last week decided to start shutting down everything from schools to salons, I heard complaints about what an overreaction it was. Now, cities from Seattle to San Francisco are on lockdown. Businesses are closing their doors and parents are getting a crash course in homeschooling their kids.

There are still people who think that panic-buying 800 rolls of toilet paper is the best way to prepare for a period of isolation. Others have hosted pandemic parties — N95 masks optional.

While I can find both of these things objectively humorous, neither is an appropriate response to the spread of Covid-19. Both acts could have ripple effects that hurt people. The reality is that this virus is going to continue to disproportionately harm people with underlying conditions and immune deficiencies. And that is not a joke.

I know that I am preaching to the choir here at Pulmonary Fibrosis News, but I’ll say it again — it is everyone’s responsibility to protect the vulnerable. Now is not the time to sip “quarantinis” with all your asymptomatic pals — unless, of course, you are doing it via FaceTime in the comfort of your individual homes.

Despite hearing about irresponsible behaviors and painfully privileged statements over the past few weeks, I feel surprisingly good about our nation’s response to the pandemic. At least on a community level.

So many people are choosing to do the responsible thing and self-isolate at home. Extra sanitization measures are being taken at businesses that must remain open. People are checking in on one another.

Being told not to leave home to socialize, to work from home, or even to be laid off is frustrating and stressful. In this situation, our immunocompromised and chronically ill friends have a leg up on us immuno-typical folks. Many rare disease patients are used to taking precautions like self-isolation to protect their health and conserve their energy. To experience self-isolation is a lesson for the rest of us in adaptability and empathy. And I believe this is a gift.

We can find other gifts here, too. For each thing I read online or hear about that makes me cringe, there are five more posts about how people are responding to the crisis in positive ways.

I have seen many friends and small businesses pledge to stay home until we are on the other side of the infection bell curve. I have seen pictures from friends who are making awesome home classrooms and teaching science in the yard.

I have seen small business owners like myself suddenly without work and  — after freaking out — realize that they needed the break to focus on strengthening the foundation of their business. Artists have banded together to do what we do best — cope through creative expression.

We are adapting. We are slowing down and reprioritizing. We are connecting more face to face with our families. We are sharing and connecting with technology in ways that seem to mean more than the usual clicking of the “like” button.

Our ability to make positive adaptations is what I love most about the human race. But I know that despite all the good stuff going on, we might still find ourselves reading too much news, seeing too many bad memes, and feeling overwhelmed.

If you are feeling anxious, put down your phone. Turn off the TV. Call your friends and wave to your neighbors. Stand on your driveway and breathe some fresh air. Play games and read books. Learn a new hobby or perfect an old one. Be mindful of your headspace and take steps to combat stress. And as always, check in with us in the Pulmonary Fibrosis News Forums because being isolated doesn’t mean you have to be alone.


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 Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.


Wendy Dirks avatar

Wendy Dirks

My husband and I are both vulnerable, me with my PF, him being 74 years old. We have now been self isolating for five days and our government's advice here in the UK is to be prepared to do this for the next 3 months at least. The challenges are interesting - lining up online grocery deliveries weeks in advance because all the slots are taken is what I did yesterday, along with navigating an online pharmacy delivery service for our medications. I hope eventually we will fall into some sort of "normal" for our daily routine. And along with our gratitude to the health care providers on the front line and all those people in shops keeping us fed, let's hear it for the bin men (the sanitation workers who collect our rubbish)!

Christie Patient avatar

Christie Patient

Hi Wendy,
I'm so glad to hear you are using technology to your advantage during this time and staying safe! Online grocery shopping/delivery is truly amazing and will save lives in the coming months. It's definitely important to have those medications in stock on case the pharmaceutical supply chain gets messed up. Good on you for thinking ahead and having them delivered ? I certainly do feel extra grateful for the workers who are essential to keeping the world running, healthcare, sanitation, grocers, and postal workers and many more who continue to keep things going during the outbreak. They all deserve a huge raise if you ask me!

Lawrence Robinson avatar

Lawrence Robinson

I am not one to post my thoughts but.... being 73 with IPF and finally having those doctors that I need and trust tell me to step back and let the younger un-compromised step up i find myself listening to what I was knowing but resisting. My wife 72 and I have been managing a food distribution pantry for our rural church near a small financially depressed town ~20 miles from a town of any size ie. near 50,000 we have been providing a monthly supplemental grocery shopping venture for from 80 to 100 families most of my key volunteers are over seventy as well and we have loved being able to help others less fortunate but, we are aware the younger families in our church need to step-up and step-in now that they are unencumbered from kids sports and activities they can step in and keep a social-distanced version going and we can step back and be proud of them without having to be apologetic. we are never sure how or blessings are going to come to us but they do.

Christie Patient avatar

Christie Patient

Hi Lawrence,
Thank you for sharing your story. It's always hard to admit when things are coming to and end, especially a project like your food pantry which I can tell you run with love and passion, and that does good in your community. But you are right, this is a pretty clear sign that it's time for younger members of your community to take the reins. You never need to apologize for putting your health first, but in the face of this disease, having any feelings of guilt removed from ending your time as a leader is a silver lining indeed. Best of luck to you and your charitable younger counterparts!

Cheryl avatar


My husband and I are 73, living in eastern Washington State, and he has IPF and PH. We self isolate during flu season anyway so nothing has really changed that way...but it is a bit more intense now since Corona virus seems so much more threatening. We are trying to be smart about how we handle this, we’re nervous about not being able to get what we need in the way of food and supplies (I had to go store to store to hunt down robitussin cough syrup the other day for my hubby), but we know ultimately we’ll be OK. Our daughter and son in law shop for us as needed, but if I need to go out it’s with an N95 mask on. We’ll make it thru this but I think it will be a rough road for the near future. Stay in and stay healthy everyone!


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