There’s not a single person or place that hasn’t been impacted by the coronavirus in some way, shape or form. Daily life can feel incredibly lonely and stressful. To help keep us connected, we’ll be sharing stories of real people dealing with this new way of life. Want to be interviewed or know somebody whose story we should share? Send us an email at [email protected].
Featured photo: Marcie Hunter (left) and her friend Mary Lacklen. (courtesy photo)
Marcie Hunter has been in quarantine for almost a month now.
She hasn’t seen or talked to another human being without a glass barrier between them for 27 days.
“It was a personal decision,” Hunter says about self-quarantining. “I thought it was unreasonable for anyone in my condition not to. I just don’t want to die.”
Hunter was diagnosed with Stage IV emphysema 16 years ago. Even before the spread of COVID-19, she had a hard time because of her condition.
“The weather is my biggest thing,” she says.
For her, humidity helps with breathing but other factors like pollen, temperature and barometric pressure affect what her life will be like. And all that was before the pandemic.
Hunter falls among the most vulnerable when it comes to COVID-19. And because of that, she’s been taking extra precautions to stay safe. Despite the warmer weather, Hunter says she hardly goes out and rarely walks in her neighborhood because she’s not sure if people will know to self-distance themselves. She laughs about how she needs one of those sandwich boards with a clear message, saying that she needs space from others to stay safe.
“I probably could walk but if I get scared, it makes it hard to breathe,” Hunter explains. “If I get nervous or anxious, even thinking about going out becomes hard.”
These days, Hunter only leaves the house to go to the pharmacy or the bank. For food, she’s been cooking a stockpile of frozen food that she got during her last real trip out in the world before she began sequestering herself.
“I went to Costco with my ex-husband,” she says. “I got huge quantities of food that would last me a really long time. Some was raw but I got too much crappy frozen vegetables. They’re taking up so much space in my freezer.”
For breakfast Hunter makes a smoothie with frozen or canned fruit or a shrimp-and-tomato omelet. She’s also been making chicken wings in her air fryer with a secret mixture she rubs on for flavor.
To pass the time, she reads the news or checks Facebook. And in the evenings, on occasion, she’ll paint.
One wall in Hunter’s apartment is covered in colorful watercolor renderings of African animals: majestic, maned lions and an elephant. A still, peaceful snow scene of a stone bridge over a flowing creek hangs nearby.
“It’s easy to paint at night after dinner,” Hunter says. “I’m relaxed and it’s something mindless.”
Still, Hunter says it takes creative energy to paint, something that she doesn’t have as much now as she did before.
“I have to pick and choose where my energy can go,” she says.
Being so isolated takes a toll on her mental health, Hunter says.
“I feel sorry for myself a lot,” she says. “And I feel alone a lot, and it does me no good at all.”
She says she’ll Facetime her sister who lives in Florida, and she’ll talk to people on Facebook, but that most of the time, people have no idea what she’s going through.
“One thing that gets me is that people say they are quarantined, but they’re going to the grocery store every day,” Hunter says. “I’ve been in the same room for almost a month. We need to find new words to talk about things.”
She wishes that those who are healthy knew what the most vulnerable, like herself, are going through.
“Nobody understands what it is to be this sick and this alone,” she says.
And when she’s feeling down, Hunter says that little things like reading something online or finding something to laugh about will knock her out of her funk.
“All of a sudden I can see myself in the mirror, and see that I’m hurting myself more than the disease is,” she says.
And even though her situation may seem dire at times, Hunter says that she still considers herself lucky and tries to keep things in perspective.
“I’m up and down like everybody else,” she says. “I’m still luckier than a lot of people.”
- Favorite thing eaten in quarantine: I like those wings. I’ve got a secret mixture that I put on them, a few different ingredients. I’ve eaten them a lot. I need to get more wings.
- What she’s watching/reading/listening to: I’ve been watching “Grace and Frankie.” That is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. I think Lily Tomlin’s character’s the cutest. I also watched the Joe Exotic thing and that was sad and funny at the same time.
- Words of encouragement: I think the thing that keeps knocking me out of feeling bad for myself is that we are all in this together. I need to remember the people who have 15 children or the women who are being abused. It’s a ‘we’ thing.