Turning Pandemic Negatives Into Positives

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by Samuel Kirton |

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I’ve found myself daydreaming lately about a return to normal. I long for the days when we didn’t need face masks, when I could see someone’s smile during a conversation, and when hand sanitizer wasn’t the most frequent smell I encountered.

Most people who know me would describe me as a very social person. I enjoy being around others. My wife, Susan, and I loved to host gatherings in our home. Our friends and neighbors looked forward to our Halloween celebrations each year. We liked to travel and have been to seven continents together.

I continued to enjoy these things, even after my diagnosis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis in early 2017. But that all came to a screeching halt in March 2020 when the pandemic hit. I miss those things, but the changes the pandemic brought with it have forced me to become more introspective and to try to adapt in the midst of so much change.

Rules for a new world

Shortly after March 2020, the basic guidance from my care team was about wearing a mask if I went out, washing my hands, using hand sanitizer, and avoiding large groups, especially in closed spaces. As time passed, that guidance was supplemented with recommendations to get vaccinated and about how to deal with people who weren’t vaccinated. Except for medical appointments, I stayed home. I’m certain that many people with some form of pulmonary fibrosis can relate to the solitude of the pandemic.

But I had to pivot. This very sociable people person had to figure out how he was going to spend his time without surrendering his sanity.

Leaning into my hobbies

I had hobbies long before there was a pandemic, which has given me ample time to spend on them again. A longtime amateur radio operator, I began to spend more time on the air. I rediscovered the joy of talking to people on the other side of the world with a modest antenna, which was what brought me to this hobby decades ago.

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One of my love languages is cooking. I love to cook, especially for others. Now, with only two of us in the house, we had to moderate my love of cooking to preclude destroying the scale. A diet of fresh-baked bread and rich Italian-style sauces was becoming too much of a norm. On a positive note, it became much easier for us to adjust our meals based on recommendations from the dietitian on our care team.

I first started riding motorcycles as a teenager. As my condition worsened, I sold my Harley-Davidson cruiser about 18 months before my bilateral lung transplant last summer. I wasn’t able to ride safely with oxygen, and honestly, it was part of getting my affairs in order. It would be one less thing Susan would have to deal with after my passing.

But now, I am back to riding. Riding is freedom to me. It can be enjoyed with Susan or just me alone.

pandemic | Pulmonary Fibrosis News | Sam Kirton's Harley-Davidson cruiser

Riding motorcycles is freedom for Sam Kirton, who has gotten back on his bike during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Sam Kirton)

Learning new things

During the pandemic, I have also continued to try to learn new skills. While some were successful, some have been ongoing and will require some post-pandemic human interaction.

I studied for and acquired my drone license. I don’t own a drone, so this is a little humorous to me.

I continue to learn to play chess after watching “The Queen’s Gambit.” And Susan and I, having mastered setting up my post-transplant medications for the week, began looking for a new activity we could do together. We’ve settled on pickleball, and we are actively looking for a class to take when it gets a little warmer.

We’ve also mastered Zoom for many uses outside of virtual support group meetings. We now have Zoom date nights, and Zoom calls to spend time with family and catch up with friends. We have also used Zoom to participate in cooking classes.

Isolating doesn’t have to be lonely or boring

Solitude doesn’t have to mean social isolation, and I’ve found things to do to keep that from happening. This pandemic has changed the way the world will function in the immediate future, and maybe even longer. But even in a pandemic I can make every breath count.

How are you faring? Have you revisited a longtime hobby or developed new skills or hobbies during this pandemic? Please share in the comments below.


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.


Jackie Kalina avatar

Jackie Kalina


Samuel Kirton avatar

Samuel Kirton

Thanks Jackie. I encourage you to think of how you can make every breath count.

Sam ...


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