Sunday 22 March 2020

Love In The Time Of Corona: Part I

Recently we were advised that we had to begin practising self-isolation, in earnest. Why? One of our colleagues had gone out to a local bar, with a lot of other folks. Turns out a minimum of one of those folks (patient 91) was soon to be diagnosed as Corvid-19 positive. 

With an abundance of caution we were advised to hunker down and follow the guidelines provided by our Administration team. The way it works is that the first person diagnosed is an F0; patient zero, if you will. Next in line is an F1 - our very own Corona Girl (I won’t use her real name since she more than adequately does that all by herself) falls into this category. Eventually, since my Administration team did not publish the list of F2 people at our school, I determined I was an F4 - not bad, but not great.

Those guidelines advised me to avoid my family members, like not sleeping with them and wearing a mask. The latter is a no brainer, but not sleeping with them was going to be a lot harder. We still breast feed and it is simply easier to share our bed with our daughter. “Moving out to where” was the next question; but, one that was not easy to answer - being a foreign national had placed me on most “we cannot help you” lists. We sat tight until more information was made available.

Eventually the Administration team released the news that the Corona Girl had tested negative, at least in the first of three tests. Shortly thereafter the Corona Girl made a post on her Wix site.

What follows is a direct line for line, verbatim rip of the Wix post written by her. This has been released into the public domain, in the sense that anyone can read it if they have the link. I just want to be sure I have a copy of it just in case her site disappears. And for what it is worth - any opinions expressed are my own.

One last thought - the Internet is forever, people: think about what you are putting out there.


How to Not Travel
So, along came Corona,

My Corona story started a little earlier than most, as I live in Vietnam. I could be wrong but I believe the situation in Vietnam was difficult due to how early we experienced the Virus here compared to other countries. Very quickly the virus entered Vietnam. Veitnam responded quickly by closing schools and was able to stop the virus in its tracks. Unfortunately, this meant that schools were closed every early in the school year comparativly to schools in most other countries. Schools were closed the start of February. We were hopeful for a while but the virus returned after 3 weeks, causing schools to remain closed even longer. As I write this blog (diary for me) the schools have been closed for 8 weeks and will continue to be closed for another two weeks (Tentatively).

The real story: My real Corona story begins the night I visited a Bar/Grill. Yes I know, bad girl. However, this was the night before things in Vietnam became more serious. The next day they decided to close down all Bars, Salons, Etc. due to the low amount of cases in Vietnam increasing daily.

A little background: Up until this date, for about a month teachers within Vietnam had been asking to have the option to be able to complete our Online Teaching from Home. It made sense to us that we could do anything we are doing in the school online, in or homes and we could perhaps even be better teachers from home and Wifi thats band limit was not stretched so thin. Finally, 3 days after Bars, salons etc were shut down and more cases appeared in an area very near to where most teacher live, the school decided to let us choose to work from home if we wanted to.

Jumping forward just 1 day: After enjoying the sweet victory of finally being able to Teach from home, rather than from my sad, empty classroom - came the news that there has been a new Positive case of Corona and guess what, he was at the same large Bar & Grill that I was at & on the same night. Due to this news, I emailed my place of work about my shame of being at the same bar, at the same date and time. Although, I was not within close contact of this m

Hello Corona Chaos: Emails flying everywhere with gibberish of f0, f1, f2, f3, f4, Self-Isolation, quarantine, unconfirmed case, confirmed case, do not enter the school, do not leave your home, Jennifer Demjen is an f1.

Waiting game: Waiting in my apartment since 8AM, I was told doctors would come and take me to a get tested for Covid 19. This information changes a few times throughout the day from - they would take me to a place to be tested, simply check my temperature and even be tested in my home. I had already previosuly heard horror stories of people being picked up and taken away for multipul days. I packed a 'day bag' as a precaution. I probably paced a race track around my living-room couch. Around 5PM they showed up. Through broken English they asked me questions about the night. I informed them that I was not any where near the man (I saw his photo on facebook) and that I had no symptoms. However, they checked my temperature and it was 38. After this, there was no longer a debate as to what was going to happen next. I had to pack my bag and find a sitter for my dog in 5 minutes. I attempted to clarify how long I was leaving to no avail, but I could tell by her body language and facial expressions that it did not look good. First off, my dog. I called my closest friend in Vietnam, and had my first break down. I begged her to take care of my baby. I did not know were I was going or how long I would be gone. She told me not to worry about my pup and named a few necessary things to add to what felt like would not just be a day bag any longer. At last minute, I decided to grab my laptop, and thank goodness I did.

Coronatine: I followed a man down the street where to my surprise, an ambulance pulled up for me. Once arriving at the hospital - Isolation area, my temperature was checked and it was now down to 36. Normal. It took a while for them to find me an English speaking doctor. Everywhere I walked, a lady followed a meter behind me spraying disinfectant. Once a doctor was found who could communicate with me, she asked me the nessesary questions, have you traveled? No. Do you have any symptoms? No. Soo... Why are you here? I was a little bit shocked by this. I had to pull up the most trusted piece of news there is.. facebook. I show her the post about a guy being at a bar who tested positive for Corona. More than a little confused she said ok. She looked at one of my documents and it was easy to see she was sorry to tell me that because I was exposed a week ago, I would need to stay a week in their hospital under quarantine. Breakdown number 2. WHY? I was not within 'close contact' (3 Meters), I had no symptoms & if I tested negative I would still not be aloud to spend the rest of my quarantine at home? This felt very wrong, it must be a mistake.

Tested: Still teary eyed I walked into what my doctor (bless her) told me would be my private room for the duration of my stay. Next comes in a man in a blue garbage bag suit, you know the one? Yes that one. He did not speak English so that was fun. Sample 1: Throat swab, not bad. 2: Take book, alright. 3: Qtip up the nose, not ok. I never knew a Qtip could go up that far. After he left my English speaking doctor came back. No break down yet, but pretty upset. I asked her to confirm that day I could leave on. She confirmed 8 days. Now was time to accept that I would be here a while, unpack my bag, get set up in my new situation. Easier said than done.

Support - Or lack there of: My expectation of support has been quite the let down. My one line of support hung up the phone on me while I was newly locked up and alone. The one doctor in the hospital that can speak English can not be here often enough to help me (Understandably). My worries and complaints are sent back to me with answers that its "too late", "Theres nothing to be done". Apparently my results have been withheld from me, leaving me in still a state of unknowing.

Tour: I did a tour of my new home to discover that the hallway had 4 other isolation rooms along it, and at the end a shared bathroom. This, is probably the worst part of my Coronatine. Disgusting. Actual human feices spread all over the toilet seat of one, and urine all over the other. I told the nurses/doctors. The next day well, let me tell you, 24 hours later and both toilets are so far exactly the same as when I arrived. If I catch some sort of other sickness while I am here, blame it on the toilets.

Nights are longer: From my first night I realized the long nights would be worse than the long days. The light is kept on in the hallway, some people are sick, some people are loud. I am not sure what is worse, the awful 'bed' or the light being on all night. At about 2AM, Breakdown number 3 - the biggest one yet.

Another day of waiting: Waiting for my results on day 2 of Coronatine was excruciating. Way worse then day 1 when I was waiting for the doctors to arrive at my home. However this time I did not have a couch to walk around 1000 times. Every. Single. Step. Past my room had my heart racing. Every inch of a shadow that someone was coming to my door. This lasted for a day. Commonly, results would be available within 7 hours, but here they were 'too busy' (I heard this line a lot) . So it would likely be a day. When I awoke on this day my temperature was checked and recorded at 36 (Yay me!). However, during the lunch temp check.. no such luck. I was back up to 38 but mind you, I did have Breakdown number 4 right before the temperature check. Never-less this was declared a fever and meant they had to take more blood from me. They said this blood test would show any inflammation. OK. Take my blood.

Results: I was told 24 hours and well.... Vietnamese time... Well. All my co-workers were informed that I am Negative. Did I get this information? No. I consulted with a doctor again, are my results in? No. Likely meaning, my school called who knows who and get the information before me or my doctors. To me, this is all types of wrong. Shouldnt the pacient be told before the world? Maybe I am wrong as its a pandemic and well, as we can see.. anything goes and rules change by the minute.

Why I am here: Good question, why am I here? And why for another week?

- Apparently my test is Negative (I heard through the lovely grape vine)
- I have no symptoms
- I was not within 2 meters or of "close contact" with the man the bar

And the only answer is... Because when they arrived at my door, my temperature was 38. Which as is commonly known can be due to any, many more reasons then Corona (Such as pacing around your home with no AC on and waiting for doctors to come potentially take you away. More commonly known as.. stress.


That’s one crazy tale. I want to show some empathetic understanding of her story; the situation she finds herself in is not very nice, to say the least. I am glad she found someone to take care of her dog; that was very fortunate. However what she did, with full knowledge of the consequences, were done by choice and her own free will; I have to tell you I see a lot of privilege in those words.

Some thoughts.

The real story: My real Corona story begins the night I visited a Bar/Grill. Yes I know, bad girl. However, this was the night before things in Vietnam became more serious. The next day they decided to close down all Bars, Salons, Etc. due to the low amount of cases in Vietnam increasing daily.

I think she is referring to the 14th of March. At that time there were 53 known cases in the country - one week previously there were 17, including the 16 that had been released from the hospitals in the country; that's 36 new cases in seven days. I am no expert, but I would think that should tell you that case number curve was increasing. In addition we already had been told that we should be careful about being part of large crowds. I, again, am no expert, but I am willing to guess the particular bar she went to was full of people.

This particular location, the Buddha Bar over in District Two, is now considered a hot spot of possible Corvid-19 infections (update: patients 97 and 98 attended that establishment on Corona Girl’s day). The local government is hitting it hard trying to track down participants - not sure how they will be successful, but they are watching the CC tapes to be sure. May take awhile but I am hopeful they’ll figure it out.

Why am I hopeful? Well, there is a certain amount of risk that I will get sick and then pass that sickness on to my wife and daughter. Of course being 60+ and diabetic is not a good thing but having my wife and/or daughter get sick would be the worst. That’s the real part that bothers me the most. I am, we are, doing our darnedest to stay safe but our efforts may be compromised by the actions of the irresponsible. I’m all for people having fun and enjoying life - I totally understand that and even support it. However, in these extraordinary times…

My real Corona story begins the night I visited a Bar/Grill. Yes I know, bad girl.

...really doesn’t cut it anymore. Basically, I’d call that, “To hell with this, I am going to live”. Great, good for you, you’ll be ok, probably live forever and all of that, that is probably true; but, what about the rest of us? Other people get sick because of you and it is all on you. Everything comes back to you and your behaviour. And I mean every-fucking-thing.

I get that she is pissed that the school apparently knew of her first negative result before she did, since it was released to the “world” before she knew. My suspicion is that the school knew simply because someone advised them. 

It is apparent that Corona Girl’s actions caused a lot of concern in the school community. A lot of teachers were classified as F2 and had to go into immediate isolation; something like a half of an apartment building. People like myself, with a family, were pounding digitally on our Administration’s doors to get information. The government knew of every F status and that was quickly rising to one hundred or more people. Her actions were inadvertently causing a potential delay in some exams scheduled next week. An awful lot of dominoes were falling over.

I see your “pissed” and raise you a hundred or more.

In the end I really hope she has no positives and she is released as soon as possible (if it all works out ok for her, she will be out on the 30th of March). Before that happens though I want to leave you with a question: you ever try to read a bedtime story through a surgical mask? I have had to do that twice in the last three months and quite frankly I don’t have any desire to do it ever again.

Monday 20 January 2020

High tide, Low tide

The call came through the foggy bottom of a dream, “Angel, angel, she’s bleeding”; I still don’t know if I woke up right away or my wife had to call me multiple times. There she was held upright by her mom, bleeding profusely from both her nostrils. A rich, deep red, arterial, thick and not stopping. She was crying, but not hard, more a quiet sobbing. Thy applied pressure to one side of her nose and I rang the nurse. Hunter screamed. I panicked, I was scared I would hurt her more by squeezing the other side of her nose. All I could think of, “My little one is going to die tonight, from a fucking nosebleed…”

Saturday started out bad - the six in the morning blood work had shown her platelet count to be under ten thousand, the critical line where, “...bleeding in the brain was possible, internal bleeding was likely…”, death was imminent? Still, when I walked around the ward, asleep, her head on my shoulder, her fever was down to normal and her blood pressure was stable. She had just finished “being Hunter”: laughing, playing, looking for any shenanigans she could think of getting into. The IV tap was painful but she had already figured out a way to deal with it. She was getting better, wasn’t she?

As the day progressed, her fever came back, her breathing grew difficult, the struggles to clear her nose, the deep raspy mouth breathing. Then came the voice calling me.


They say our lives are full of rhythms. Our heartbeats, our breathing. As a young man I was always fascinated by the sinusoidal waveform - like a snake undulating across the desert, never too fast, never too slow, definable (predictable?) but full of unpredictable results. Rhythms get intermingled sometimes; two become one, supporting, growing together or breaking and canceling.

Rhythms get disrupted, of course, sometimes for the good, sometimes for the bad.


Hunter had started school in August. There were quite a number of crying departures but slowly but surely she became accustomed to the routine, the way the school and her class worked. It got to the point that she looked forward to going to school and ever so slowly she started to reluctantly leave each day. We had good reports about her progress, how well she was adapting, how she was smart and learning so much. As parents I don’t think we could have been happier.

Hunter always seemed to have a runny nose, even before she started at school. We did what every parent does, a little of this, a little of that, visit the doctor when we were unsure. We seemed to manage it ok. When there was a fever we naturally got worried; but, Hunter always seemed to pop out of it: 24-48 hours later she was herself again.

The colds came a little more frequently when she started school - that’ll happen: early school/preschool is a ripe playground for viral infections. They even went through the (what seems to be the norm in Vietnam) hand, foot and mouth disease spiral. Hunter didn’t get that, thankfully, but even now, months later, there is a rigid protocol of “wash your hands”.


The latest cold seemed to be going a little longer than normal. Hunter was still herself, even declaring she was bored with us during the Christmas holidays getting dressed and ready to take herself to school. The fact that she pulled on her favourite hoodie and some shoes and a small backpack was pretty impressive. No pants, mind you, but she wasn’t concerned; neither were we. There she was, standing patiently at the elevators, waiting for one to arrive and take her downstairs. Might be stupid sick, but dealing with it.

The cold. Runny nose primarily, but with some green discharge. And a persistent, low fever. Nightmares, epic nightmares, with a little two year old body shaking in fear, was something new. For three days we were wondering, doing what we have done in the past, but still wondering.

Her mom had already made an appointment to see our preferred pediatrician for Thursday afternoon. When we were getting ready to visit Thy noticed the little red dots on and about Hunter’s feet and lower legs. A few on her belly. Some on her scalp. Tiny, almost inconsequential. Maybe a heat rash? Thy wondered if it was Dengue. I did my search on the Internet and the rash that goes with Dengue seemed to be far more pronounced. Couldn't be, could it?

Sixty seconds at the doctor’s office and her preliminary diagnosis was maybe Dengue, maybe something called thrombocytopenia. Couldn’t do anything now, need to bring her back in 24 hours, standard protocol for such a speculation. I remember asking the doctor how can anyone do blood work on a two year old? “Not easy and it will hurt.”

Thursday was full of unknowns, lots of searching the Internet; Thursday night to Friday at about two-thirty in the morning was difficult as her fever kept coming back after 3-4 hours of baby Tylenol. We gave her one more dose to reduce her fever again and then fell back asleep. Thy woke me at about eight o’clock with, “Angel she has a nose bleed.” It wasn't big, just a little dried blood under one nostril, but still it was her first one and no obvious reason why. “Fuck this, we’re going to the hospital.”

Thirty seconds of examination by the emergency physician and it was, “We are checking your daughter into the hospital and we are going to do some blood work as soon as she is on the floor.”


The human body is an amazing thing. You get an infection and your immune system says, “Ok, call to arms; let’s get busy and kill this thing.” And, generally, it does - we get infections all the time and a properly in tune immune system is kicking ass on a regular basis. We also get little nicks and scrapes and bruises all the time - platelets in our body help take care of those, by assisting clotting, so we don’t bleed to death. They come from the bone marrow, if you can believe that.

In this case our little girl’s immune system took note of the viral infection and went to work and continued to go to work: it started to see the platelets in her body as the enemy and decided to “kill them, kill them all.” They call it ITP: Immune thrombocytopenia and it manifests itself on the skin of the afflicted person as “...superficial bleeding into the skin that appears as pinpoint-sized reddish-purple spots (petechiae) that look like a rash, usually on the lower legs.”

Exactly what Hunter had.

Fuck me.

“Make an appointment with your doctor if you or your child develops warning signs that worry you. Bleeding that won't stop is a medical emergency. Seek immediate help if you or your child experiences bleeding that can't be controlled by the usual first-aid techniques, such as applying pressure to the area.”

Fuck me.


The first blood work came back with a poor result - 14,000, where typically you have between 150-400,000; Hunter’s was way, way down. That’s when the first paediatrician said that the number of gravest concern was anything under ten thousand. There was no result for Dengue, but they never trust the first sample so they would have to do it again the next morning, at six o’clock to check again. “Try and get some rest.”

Do you know they ask at least one of the parents to leave the room when they are taking a blood sample? My wife stayed and I left because I was told to. In a way I was relieved: I hate blood sampling and if you hurt my child I am going to hurt you is a parental mantra I deeply subscribe to. I was worried I might punch someone out. Then again I cannot believe how crushing it is to hear your child screaming, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy help me”.

You know what is worse? “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, save me.”

I listened outside that door until I could not listen anymore; I wasn’t crying much, but inside my head I was screaming. I went home that evening to get some basics and kept bumping into little pieces of Hunter. Her little shoes parked near my computer - how many times had I asked her not to do that?

Would I get to ask/tell her again?

I stepped into the shower, not so much to wash, but to sit on the floor and cry and scream and cry some more. I can remember how I kept saying to myself to stop it, to pull it together, to be strong for my family, to be supportive and not be such a baby.

Then I would cry some more.


My wife and the nurse got the bleeding under control, very quickly; they didn’t need me, that was for sure. Hunter was still crying a little, but was probably more scared than actually hurting. The doctor came and said that everything looked ok, she wasn't bleeding internally and this wasn’t as serious as it looked.

They did more blood work on Sunday morning. More screaming for help by Hunter, more guilt and shame on my shoulders.

While we waited for the results I encouraged Thy to go home and get cleaned up; she needed the break.

I sat on the couch with Hunter on my chest and shoulder, her little wheezy snore reassuring me that she was still ok. The doctor came in and said, “I have good news: 28,000!”. I didn’t even say thank you, I just started to cry, loudly, running nose, body shaking sobs. Hunter was so tired she didn’t even wake up. The doctor moonwalked out the room as quickly as she could and I was left with this immediate sense of relief and then overwhelming exhaustion. The little monkey had turned the corner.

Thy came back shortly thereafter, and because she had already bumped into the doctor, she had heard the news as well. More crying, more sighing - I suspect we both wanted to scream, but we didn’t.

They put in an IV tube in that day - Hunter wasn’t really taking in that many fluids and it would help with platelet rebuilding as well. Hell, yes, give her some fluids! (Side note: if she had had Dengue and they had started giving her fluids right away on the Friday she might have suffered from pulmonary edema and possibly died - man, oh man)

They decided no more blood work until Tuesday morning, at six, again, to give her body time to rest and recover. Thy and I talked about it and I was sure I was staying this time; the least I could do was be there to cradle her head and, well, to be honest, just be there. Undeterred by the awkwardness of the now fully functioning IV Hunter started to look and sound better. They had to draw blood from her leg since her hands and arms were too beat up. “Not easy and it will hurt” was the understatement of all time.

She was still having these acting out moments of utter horror and outright anger at Thy and I - swinging out and hitting us was not something we had ever seen before. We were reassured, by several nurses and doctors, that this was quite normal, she was just stressed. The sooner she got out of there the better. No fucking kidding.

And that happened on the Tuesday - platelet count of over one hundred thousand; take your daughter home.

Hunter went back to school the following week. There was a bit of an adjustment required; it was like she didn’t trust anyone in authority. She would wake up at night, four or five or six times, screaming, nightmares are the likely cause (Side note: night terrors, night sweats are a symptom of ITP - those nightmares before she went into the hospital might have been a precursor to the episode she went through; the ones now are different).


And of course I will never look at a cold or fever the same way again. The rhythm of life of our family, of ourselves and of our little girl certainly ebbed and flowed in some ways we never expected. I want to say I am hopeful, but still wary of any little thing. I am certainly respectful of what happened and cautious of what could happen next. Up's and down's and all around's, as they used to say.

I’ll be watching.

Teaching at Minus Fifty - Part Seventeen

So, back to writing again. New position at the school has me writing a lot more than I am used to, so keyboard time is preoccupied with that...