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Covering COVID-19 From My Kitchen

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted all of our lives. For me, what seemed to be a mild inconvenience (not celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with a dinner and drinks out) turned into the most anxiety-producing and professionally challenging time in my freelance life.

Because I was born with transposition of the great arteries, a heart defect that makes me high risk for getting gravely sick from COVID-19, my husband and I decided to stay out of public places a week or two before our governor ordered all residents to shelter in place. We thought two weeks wouldn’t be so difficult; we have wine, Netflix, a stocked fridge and a tower of books to read. Paradise!

As a freelance healthcare writer, in typical times, assignments ebb and flow–“feast or famine” is the rule. In early March when businesses began to close and layoffs began, I focused on being available for my clients (primarily hospitals, medical schools, physician practices, and health advocacy organizations) as they looked to develop patient education pieces about the virus. For the past four months, I have been absolutely slammed. I have written more than 10,000 words of content related to COVID-19. In addition to the patient-focused pieces, I also have interviewed nearly 50 clinicians about their experience treating patients with COVID-19. It was an eye-opening and heart-wrenching experience, and I am honored these brave, skilled men and women trusted me to tell their stories.

And while I am ever so grateful for the work, all of┬áthis COVID talk has made me less than eager to rejoin society. I’ve been hiding behind my laptop for months, and I’ve become quite comfortable here. I live in Ortley Beach, a 1-square-mile town at the Jersey Shore that teems with vacationers this time of the year. While the influx of bodies and energy can be exciting, when you have a serious heart condition during a global pandemic, it can be cause for concern.

But, I’ve written enough articles about mental health to know that I can’t continue to live like this, typing away while ocean waves crash a few blocks away. Who, if not me, will drink the margaritas?! So my husband and I have jumped in the Jeep and dined outside at a few of our favorite local restaurants. To spruce up our backyard (which we rarely spent time in before quarantine), we’ve masked up and shopped at local decor and garden centers. We’ve even organized weekly socially distant happy hours with our neighbors, who are also feeling antsy to get back to the places that make living at the shore so special. Together on our front lawn, we feel a little less alone.

I’m looking forward to more adventures that allow me to temper safety with socialization; this is our busy season, and our beloved businesses are bleeding because they can’t operate at full capacity. I want to give them my hard-earned money because they’ve earned my loyalty over the last 44 years.

Yes, it’s been a rough four months, but there are six more months for 2020 to redeem itself. Stay safe. Mask up. Be smart. And most importantly, be kind to those who are struggling to get back out there.