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As Spring Arrives, I’m Reflecting on a Year of Quarantine

As Spring Arrives, I’m Reflecting on a Year of Quarantine
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Time has no meaning anymore. I barely know what day it is. I’m safe in my self-contained bubble of cat cuddles and electric blankets. I rarely ever leave the house. Most of my doctors offer virtual visits (the sole upside to a pandemic), but there are some things that have to be done in person, like changing my G-tube, or fine-tuning my new wheelchair.

I know dozens of people who have gotten the vaccine. Some are essential workers. (A shoutout to library staff, who are essential workers in everything but name, yet are expected to work with minimal protections. If you use your local library, please reach out to your representatives and demand protection for library workers, including prioritization in the vaccine rollout.) Some were lucky enough to qualify as caregivers. Meanwhile, many folks with underlying health conditions are overlooked, likely because we’re young and, thus, at lesser risk.

I’m getting antsy. Part of it is spring fever — the snow is melting in Minnesota, which means it’s time for T-shirts and outdoor barbecues. (I wish I were kidding.) But part of it is the isolation. It’s been a year, according to social media, but in truth, I’ve been dreading the fallout of COVID-19 for much longer. I was following the coverage in January of last year. I knew better than to hope the virus would die out, but I still spent the first few months of 2020 praying for a miracle, even as I prepared to hunker down.

A year later, and I know better than to hope for a swift end to the pandemic. But things are starting to look up. I still plan to mask up, even after I’m vaccinated; I won’t be going to the mall, or any other enclosed space that makes social distancing impossible. But I’m starting to dream again.

Dinner parties with friends. Afternoons with Elena, my caregiver’s daughter. Walks along the river, the sun at my back, trees rustling in the distance.

For many, 2020 was “a lost year.” The world stopped. Plans were canceled, celebrations postponed, the hustle and bustle of life slowed to a crawl. But it’s hard for me to think that way, largely because I’m no stranger to quarantine.

So much of my life is spent indoors, separated from the world at large. When I was young, it was to avoid everything from respiratory illnesses to the seasonal flu. My immune system is stronger these days, so I’m not as paranoid about getting sick, but the cruelty of Minnesota winters still isolates me. I don’t go out; I rarely leave the house. Other than my caregivers, I don’t see much of anyone.

Winters are for hibernation, yes, but that doesn’t mean I cease to exist the moment the leaves change color. The months I spend indoors aren’t any less valuable than my time in “the real world” — cruising down the interstate with the windows down, or chasing Elena down the toy aisle at Target, or playing Dungeons & Dragons with my very best friends.

It’s all life. And it’s all worth living.

Still, I’m ready for the flux in energy that accompanies the change in seasons. 2020 wasn’t a lost year. Not for me. But I’m desperate for the cycle to begin again — the sharp air of spring, blooming flowers, laughter down the street. It’s time to lumber out of my deep, dark cave, and bask in the sunlight of a world made new.

A couple of weeks ago, I got my allergy shots for the first time since the pandemic started. Most healthcare professionals are fully vaccinated, so I felt the risk was worth it. Armed with my N95 mask, I entered the clinic for the first time in a year, only to be greeted by the receptionist.

“Brianna! It’s so good to see you!”

The allergy nurse was thrilled to have me back. We caught up on the past 12 months as she shot me up with all sorts of allergens. She asked if I’d gotten the vaccine yet, and when I said no, she confirmed that I would qualify as having more than one underlying health condition. It was just a matter of time — probably within the next few weeks.

The visit wasn’t “normal.” In pre-pandemic times, I would’ve sat in the waiting room, scrolling through Instagram and people-watching. Instead, I quarantined in an empty room. But the jolt of fondness that went through me at the nurse’s voice? The sound of Elena’s laugh, bright and mischievous? The sun on my face — weak, watery, but with the promise of a coming warmth?

That was the thrill of waking from a months-long sleep. The promise of everything that is yet to come.

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Note: SMA News Today 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 SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.

Brianna (she/her) is a crip cyborg storyteller living in Minneapolis-St. Paul. She was diagnosed with SMA Type II at 9 months of age and lives with co-occurring physical and mental health conditions. By day, she works as an advocate, bridging disability and mental health awareness to empower people to live their best lives; by night, she dabbles in imagination, and is in the process of making the book of her heart, “#WaningCrescent,” the best it can be. Find her online at www.briannahopealbers.com and on social media @briehalbers.
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Brianna (she/her) is a crip cyborg storyteller living in Minneapolis-St. Paul. She was diagnosed with SMA Type II at 9 months of age and lives with co-occurring physical and mental health conditions. By day, she works as an advocate, bridging disability and mental health awareness to empower people to live their best lives; by night, she dabbles in imagination, and is in the process of making the book of her heart, “#WaningCrescent,” the best it can be. Find her online at www.briannahopealbers.com and on social media @briehalbers.

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