Please Protect the Society
Someone rang the doorbell of my hotel room. I opened the door.
A medical personnel in head-to-toe pandemic protective gear was standing at the door. He looked like an astronaut, and bigger than average man because of the gear.
"Ms. You?" He asked. "Yes." I said.
"Wear this." He said, handing me a plastic package.
It was a bag full of pandemic protective gears.
I probably looked confused as I took out each item. He said, "First, put on the hair net. And then, put on the mask."
I put on the hair net and struggled with the N95 mask with double straps that messed up my hair and my glasses.
"Now put on the gloves, and then put on the gown." He said. He taught me how to pull the waist straps of the gown from the back to the front and fasten them.
"Now, put on this other pair of gloves, make sure they cover the sleeves of your gown." He said. I obeyed, again struggling with the outer layers of the latex gloves that wanted to stick to the inner layer of gloves.
"Face shield." He said, handing me a plastic face shield after I finally got the outer gloves on. I put on the face shield over my messed-up hair and crooked glasses.
"Let's go." He said. I put on my backpack, swang my duffel bag onto my shoulder and started wheeling my big luggage from my holiday to the US out of the room.
I got Covid during the last days of my Christmas holidays in the US, and tested positive while being in quarantine in Taiwan. I was now a walking virus and being transferred to a government-operated isolation ward.
Have a Cold, On an Ambulance
Another medical personnel motioned to me to get into the pandemic ambulance when we reached the ground floor of the quarantine hotel.
I climbed into the ambulance with my backpack and my duffel bag. I looked at my luggage and said, "Sorry, I need help with my luggage."
The medical personnel looked at me, and then looked at my luggage for 3 seconds before he reluctantly touched and lifted the luggage, squeezing it onto the ambulance.
If you're treating me like a patient, I thought, then I'm going to demand all the help. Damn it, I'm getting into the ambulance by myself already!
I had never been in an ambulance before and was surprised at how crowded it was. The cot was small. My luggage barely fit in the space that was left. A big sheet of black plastic bag was pasted between the driver's compartment and the patient's compartment to separate them. The ambulance sped loudly through the rush-hour traffic with windows wide open, the plastic flapped constantly in the wind.
I had been having a mild sore throat for a few days, and it was almost gone after a few good night's sleep. I couldn't believe how I felt - a mild cold - was the reason why I was on an ambulance. I listened to the siren that didn't go away like it usually does, and wondered where I was going.
My New Stay
I did have a little idea where I was going. Just a little.
Before I got ready for the ambulance, I texted my sister who also works at a hospital.
"Do you know which hospital you're going to?" She texted back.
"They said the military hospital up north." I replied. The nurse at the quarantine hotel told me where I was assigned to by the Center for Disease Control.
"Oh, I've been there to interview once. It's a small hospital, and really old." She replied.
My heart sank. I started to imagine a small room with peeling walls and moldy smells.
The next text came. "There's a mango orchard right beside the hospital."
My spirit lifted a little bit. The scene of a mango orchard somehow made it all better. Perhaps I'd be able to see mango trees from outside of my window. That wouldn't be too bad.
Before I was able to send my reply - "Oh that sounds nice!" - the next text came.
"That's where they bury all the medical waste and broken medical equipment."
My heart sank again, even deeper than before.
"Well, I hope my room won't be on the ground floor." I texted back with a sigh.
"No. Your room will be on the top floor. Ventilation requirement for contagious diseases." She replied.
Remembering all this in the ambulance, I took a deep breath and wondered how all her prophesies were going to unfold.
After what felt like a century the ambulance stopped moving. I got out of the ambulance and was promptly ushered into a small examination room that was attached to the outside of the ER.
The exam room had a small anteroom in the front where medical personnel can change in and out of protective gear and wash their hands. A narrow cot lied in the middle of the room crowded by a few old medical equipments on one side and a toilet on the other, separated by a piece of curtain. I waited there and feared that was going to be my room.
A nurse later came in and put a pink band with a barcode on my wrist after she checked my blood pressure and body temperature.
"Okay, let's go to your room! I can help take a bag if you'd like." She said light-heartedly. I thanked her and let her take the duffel bag.
"You people coming back from overseas always have a lot of luggage." She said, maybe with a smile but I couldn't see. She was also wearing full protective gear.
We turned around the side of the ER and started walking down a small road outside towards what looked like the back of the hospital. The pandemic personnel and patients have to take a different route from regular hospital visitors.
I dragged my big luggage along the dimly lit alley that wound around the hospital, and I passed a few trees. I looked up. There they were, mango trees. I looked at the bottom of the trees, wondering what's underneath.
Then we turned a corner and started walking down a small corridor that looked like the basement of the hospital. On both sides of the corridor were piles of old equipment and machines you'd see in a hospital. A broken 4-seater bench lay beside an old desk, across from a rusty machine with its plug hanging to the side.
"I thought they buried the stuff." I wondered to myself.
We went in a big freight elevator at the end of the corridor, and the nurse pressed 9.
Top floor. My penthouse.
(to be continued)