Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The New Yorker

 Who Is “Worthy”? Deaf-Blind People Fear That Doctors Won’t Save Them from the Coronavirus

By Robin Wright

Rebecca Alexander volunteered shortly after Governor Andrew Cuomo appealed for mental-health professionals to help counsel first responders traumatized by the covid-19 crisis. A New York psychotherapist, she has taken calls from a young nurse who had trouble sleeping because she was haunted by the sounds of dying patients gasping for breath. A doctor described getting instructed not to intubate anyone over eighty on the day his mother turned eighty-two. A pediatric nurse who specialized in infant diseases recounted her lack of training after being abruptly transferred to caring for adults in acute respiratory failure. Several confessed their own extreme distress at pushing the limits of their bodies physically and emotionally. “Constantly being on the front lines is taking a toll on them,” she told me.

What none of the people pouring out their problems to Alexander knew is that she is legally deaf and blind—and has her own deep fears about how the new coronavirus threatens the estimated 2.4 million Americans, and millions more across the globe, who, like her, rely on touch to communicate, navigate, and care for themselves. “When you don’t have vision or hearing or both, you rely heavily on other senses,” she said. “For us, that other sense is touch.” But touch is now the most prevalent means of spreading covid-19. Read on...


Wednesday, April 8, 2020

The New Yorker

 How Much Can the Human Spirit Endure in Isolation?

By Robin Wright

April in Washington, D.C., is normally the month of nature’s renewal—and my favorite—for the pastel blossoms of azaleas and tulips, the shades of green in new grass, the warming temperatures, and the soft light that lingers into evening. This spring, the window is the prism of human existence—looking through the glass and waiting for the pestilence to pass. From my window, I can see a pear tree shedding white flowers to make way for sprouting leaves. Little else is happening on the other side of the pane. As eerie as this spring has already been, Surgeon General Jerome Adams warned on Sunday that this week will be “the hardest and saddest” in most Americans’ lives. “This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment, only it’s not going to be localized. It’s going to be happening all over the country,” he said, on Fox News.

I began to wonder how much the human spirit can endure—and for how long. We’re only in the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, with a second wave expected in the fall. “Catastrophizing is really bad for your mental health,” Samuel Paul Veissière, a co-director of the Culture, Mind and Brain Program at McGill University, told me. “You bring depression into being by worrying. And that has an impact on quality of life and immune functions.” To circumvent the numbing fear of becoming the next numeral in a running tally of cases, I started playing a mental game—identifying the people I’ve known or covered who were imprisoned, isolated, or banished in far worse conditions. Covering the world’s wars and political hellholes, there have been many—some famous, many little-known. Each of their stories reaffirmed what humans are capable of bearing—and eventually overcoming. Read on....