Column: Triage (English)

Job is sitting on our balcony with his coat on. A book in his hands, the sun in his face. This is how we get him a breath of fresh air, every day. Job is in full quarantine, and so are we. 

It started exactly one week ago and the longer this corona crisis lasts, the more convinced we become of the necessity of this radical measure. Job belongs to a risk group. His lungs are in tribulation due to his severe scoliosis and pneumonia could be fatal for him. 

More frightening than the virus itself, is the thought of him getting sick (perhaps we are already infected), while there are no ICU-beds available. I read anxious about Italian doom scenarios where doctors have to choose who will be treated and who will not be treated. This is known as ‘triage’ . The crucial question is: which patient has the biggest chance of survival? A doctor considers the chances of survival and then decides who gets treatment.

Imagine us arriving in a hospital with a sick Job. A fragile child in a wheelchair, with faible health. Physical fitness level: zero. Everything inside his battered body is higgledy-piggledy. Just a regular intubation is problematic with our son. I see pictures of Italian patients laying on their bellies to be ventilated. Because of a crooked back, Job cannot lay on his belly!  

These images terrify me. I said once that I hoped that Job doesn’t outlive us – so that we can always be there to take care of him – but it would be horribly bitter if he fell victim to this virus. Because if the choice will be between him and another patient, our son will not stand a chance. Meanwhile, imagine, this patient with the higher chance of survival, was sitting in a pub last weekend, bashing about how there is nothing to be worried about. At the same time, we have been isolating our child from every potential risk, we don’t even leave the house for groceries. This fear is what keeps me awake every night. 

Annemarie Haverkamp (1975) is a Dutch author who writes columns for the daily newspaper Algemeen Dagblad and the daily regional newspaper De Gelderlander. Since 16 years, she writes every week about living with Job, her son who has a disability.