March 8, 2020, by Kristin Neva
After three weeks of my husband, Todd, being cloistered in our home with a cold, we ventured out Saturday for Michigan Tech’s last home hockey game of the season. Our Huskies took on their archrival, the Northern Michigan Wildcats. Games between the two teams usually sell out because of increased local demand and the Wildcat fans who travel 90 miles from Marquette.
I had put off buying tickets, waiting to see if Todd got through his cold. By Wednesday, Todd no longer needed help every hour or so with an assisted cough, and by Friday he was feeling up to going to the game. I called to see if we could still get tickets. Although the rest of the 4200-seat arena was sold out, leaving standing room only, our usual seats in the accessible section were available.
Todd passed on dinner, saying he wanted to get a hot dog at the game.
“OK, but no onions,” I said. It had crossed my mind that he might have picked up his bug from the communal onion tray three weeks before at the previous hockey game, even though I had tried to scoop onions from the bottom. His sore throat started that night so that probably wasn’t it, but I was on edge after providing intensive care for nearly three weeks.
“And stay 6 feet away from anybody who coughs,” I warned him, remembering a tip I had heard on avoiding the COVID-19 virus. Todd would have to navigate through the crowd on the way to our seats, but then he should be safe because the accessible section is a single row of wheelchair slots and companion seats right up against the glass.
We live in a college town where people travel internationally, so I’m concerned that COVID-19 — caused by a member of the coronavirus family that’s related to the SARS and MERS viruses — may eventually reach our community. However, I already live with the kind of vigilance that a possible pandemic requires. The rest of the world is now taking precautions that I’ve been taking for years. Todd’s compromised lung function due to ALS means any bug could kill him, but we need to live life.
Life is risky, and I’m always calculating those risks.
A couple of months ago, my daughter went to a convention out of state with her dance studio. The possibility of a van accident crossed my mind, and a part of me wanted her to stay close to home. But what kind of life is that? I’d be protecting a life neither of us wants for her.
In the same vein, I let my son ride a dirt bike and downhill ski. We feel compelled to keep living, but we use caution. Isaac wears a helmet when he’s on his motorcycle and skis, and we do our best to avoid germs when Todd goes to crowded places.
I dropped Todd and Isaac off at the door of the arena and parked the accessible van. I caught up with them at our seats, surprised to find a number of fans standing behind Todd in the accessible section.
The teams played hard. Tech had won the night before in an 8-4 shootout, and both teams wanted the final regular-season victory.
Just before the end of the first period, Todd asked for a hot dog with jalapeños.
“No condiments from the communal trays,” I reminded him. “Let’s stick with ketchup and mustard from the pumps.” He was good with that, so I left for the concessions, and Tech scored the first goal.
The Wildcats answered with two goals less than a minute apart in the second period, and more fans crowded in behind us.
Tech tied the game in the third period, and a college student invaded part of the wheelchair slot and knelt beside Todd to take a picture with her smartphone.
And then she coughed without covering her mouth.
When it appeared that she was planning on staying in the box for the rest of the game, I decided to say something. “Could you please make sure you don’t cough on him? His health is compromised. And don’t cough on me either. I need to take care of him.” She nodded agreeably and did a better job covering her mouth when she coughed.
I wish I didn’t have to be so bold, but people need to know. We’ll continue living life with a heightened level of caution, but it would help if healthy people with cold symptoms did their part to keep viruses from spreading.
Maybe we could adopt a cultural norm from Taiwan. When I visited there more than a decade ago, one of Todd’s co-workers wore a disposable earloop facemask because she had a cold. How considerate was that!
By the way, Tech lost 3 to 2 in the last minute of the game.