Maggie Whittum is re-emerging into life as an artist, after having suffered a massive brainstem stroke in 2014 at age 33. She performs with Phamaly Theatre Company in Denver, which exclusively casts actors with disabilities. Maggie has directed and produced plays, musicals and improv comedy across festivals and venues in Asia, North America, and Scotland. She is creating 'The Great Now What', a documentary film on disability, loss and resilience web link here. She is a graduate of Colorado College.
Thoughts from Maggie:
I’m feeling awful today. Not physically (I feel healthy, thankfully, and I hope you feel healthy as well), but psychologically. I am full of dread. The pandemic forecast is grim.
This hits me particularly hard. Though it was five years ago, my time in the ICU is etched into my brain. I spent 16 days in an ICU bed during my stroke, 9 of those on a ventilator. The incredible people who cared for me were not stressed to exhaustion, and could do their jobs well. Despite being in an extremely fragile state and needing many resources from multiple doctors and nurses, I was exceptionally well-cared for.
Now I have nightmares about needing to go back to the hospital and there being no room for me.
What if I was having my stroke in 10-20 days, at which point the healthcare system may be overwhelmed in many cities? Brainstem strokes are fatal most of the time, and if I were at death’s door anyway, would I get a bed in the ICU?
Depending on how seriously we all take this crisis, over 1 million Americans could die because of the Coronavirus Washington Post.
Who gets an ICU bed? Who doesn't? Who will be deemed least likely to survive? People like me when I was having my stroke? People like every performer in Phamaly (all of whom have underlying conditions, disabilities, chronic illnesses, and/or suppressed immune systems)?
I feel alternately enraged because this was foreseeable and preventable, and despondent because so many of the dominoes have already fallen.
What happens next will greatly be determined by your actions. Please stay home if you can. Please take this seriously. Please look out for your disabled, chronically ill, and elderly neighbors. Please.
Do it for Phamaly. Do it for every healthcare worker. Do it for everyone in your community. And do it for yourself because you may be healthy today, but you might need an ICU bed next week.
Posted on social media by an ICU doctor in Australia, March 13:
Coronavirus isn’t just like the flu, but it’s only really very dangerous to the elderly or the already unwell. Quite a lot of people in their 80s will die, but most of the rest of us will probably be okay.
If you’re in your 70s and you get Coronavirus, you’ve got a really good chance of survival. If I’ve got a bed for you.
If you’re in your 60s and you have a heart attack, you’ve got a really good chance of survival. If I’ve got a bed for you.
If you’re in your 50s and need bowel cancer surgery, you’ve got a really good chance of survival. If I’ve got a bed for you.
If you’re in your 40s and have a bad car accident, you’ve got a really good chance of survival. If I’ve got a bed for you
If you’re in your 30s and have terrible pre-eclampsia as a complication of pregnancy, you’ve got a really good chance of survival. If I’ve got a bed for you.
If you’re in your 20s and have a bad reaction to a party drug, you’ve got a really good chance of survival. If I’ve got a bed for you.
I have 7 beds equipped with life support machines. We have a plan to increase to about 25. Getting more isn’t a matter of more equipment or more money. There are not enough skilled staff, even if we all work double shifts every day for six months (and we probably will).
If 50% of my city gets infected, that’s 75,000 people. If 5% of them need life support (which is the estimate), that’s 3750 people. For 25 beds.
And then I might not have a bed for you.
So it’s up to you to flatten the curve. Wash your hands. Stay home.