Johnson: Scene from a pandemic

Not long ago, I never would’ve let an ambulance take my husband away, with an obviously broken arm and in tremendous pain, and just sit at home and do nothing. But on Sunday, I watched from the driveway and did nothing.

Dave Lanpher (left) and Ryan Johnson on their wedding day on Sept. 14, 2019, before the pandemic and a broken arm. Special to The Forum

I had to lower my mask to kiss my husband goodbye before he was taken away in an ambulance last Sunday evening.

I was still in shock. Just minutes before, I saw Dave make a slight misstep a couple steps up on our side porch as we awkwardly hauled our old couch out of the basement. He fell down, landing on concrete from a few feet up, and directly on his shoulder. It all happened so fast. I helped roll him over and saw his arm, and I instantly knew it was bad.

There was screaming. I somehow called 911. Several neighbors came over, talking to Dave and I, taking over my phone call with the dispatcher when I couldn’t handle answering more questions.

A crew of three EMTs, all younger women, arrived to save the day. They were amazing.

I was shaking so hard I could barely lock the door to my house after I hastily threw together a bag of his medications and our phone chargers while my neighbors kept him distracted before the ambulance got there. I had to be ready to leave for a while when I rode along with my husband.


And I still was able to get my mask and put it on, because it’s the least I can do right now.

Wearing a mask is absolutely nothing compared to being in shock, adrenaline coursing through your veins, and being asked to help lift your husband up to put on the stretcher — and then finding out you can’t even wait in the hospital with him. Or see him again for a couple days.

Like the sudden recommendation to wear masks in public, the hospital’s visitor ban is collateral damage from a worldwide pandemic that has already killed more than 300,000 so far, according to the World Health Organization, and more than 90,000 in America alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Life has changed so much. I never thought about wearing a mask before. Now, it’s becoming as automatic as a seat belt.

Not long ago, I never would’ve let an ambulance take my husband away, with an obviously broken arm and in tremendous pain, and just sit at home and do nothing. I would’ve fought like hell to ride in the ambulance, or I would demand to sit alone in the waiting room, knowing I was at least in the same building as him.

But on Sunday, I watched the ambulance drive away and did nothing.

Hospitals can’t have visitors when a pandemic is spreading. That’s why I just had to accept, as hard as it was, that I couldn't see him for two days.

We’re lucky that he’s OK. After surgery to fix it all and getting back home on Tuesday, he's now starting on his road to recovery. It could’ve been so much worse.


I don’t know what lesson there is to learn in all this, other than the ripple effect of our individual actions and the decisions we all have to make now. I can’t answer those questions for anyone else.

This week at least, I didn't go to the hospital to see my husband, and in exchange, I might not have unknowingly spread a new virus to someone who can’t fight it off.

I wore a mask while EMTs were shooting up my husband with painkillers to prepare to move him because, in exchange, one of these life-saving first responders maybe wasn't exposed to a virus that could sicken her or spread to other people like Dave, who need help in a desperate way.

I can’t fix Dave’s arm right now, and I can’t stop a pandemic. I'll sure as hell wear a mask if it keeps my husband and his caretakers safe.

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