My Hydroxychloroquine Caper by Toby Fesler Heathcotte
In mid-March 2020, as I listened to numerous news reports about the impending epidemic of COVID-19, I worried that things could get worse, like pandemic bad, because medical people didn’t appear to have any treatment or vaccine to combat the virus. In other words, it was a super virus.
Lo and behold, Trump, despite having zip medical training, hyped a drug that could cure the virus—hydroxychloroquine. I was shocked and surprised and wondered what that might mean for me.
For the past four or five years, I’ve taken the drug
hydroxychloroquine, brand name Plaquenil, originally developed to cure another epidemic—malaria. It is useful for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, an affliction of mine for about twenty years.
I had begun to suffer from some side effects including eye problems. Both the ophthalmologist and the rheumatologist decided to start me on a different medication and wean me off the hydroxychloroquine. I clearly had a bunch of it in my system. What impact would that have if I contracted COVID-19?
Would I be immune? Do I have to stay home, or could I go out shopping, visiting, and ramming around the neighborhood? Just asking.
If so, I could become Florence Nightingale and walk amongst the ill and become a healer for the nation. With such glorious possibilities in the offing, I struck out, metaphorically since I was confined to my house, to discover some answers.
Might I be such a superhero? What’s a superhero if no one believes in her?
To find the answer, first, I texted my younger son while he was working from home instead of going to his law office. With such slim info as I had presented, he opined that chances were slim that I would contract malaria based on my drug usage, for whatever that was worth. I considered his response utterly inadequate.
Next, I texted my elder son who was traveling out of the country on vacation. The feds were threatening to recall all Americans abroad asap. Undaunted, he replied that he feared like Brer Rabbit he could get stranded in New Zealand and not have to leave. The authorities insisted so he did make his flight home and brought back a suitcase full of toilet paper. Despite my broad support for his international turmoil, he took no interest in mine and failed to make any pertinent comment on the question of his mother’s conjectures about her physical superiority through medication.
My sons did not believe in my superpower, so I turned to medical professionals.
In chatting with my rheumatologist, I described my excitement about my potential immunity. I asked her how much of an illicit market there might become for my stash of hydroxychloroquine.
To my delight she pointedly and jokingly required that I let her get in on the deal. She could prescribe and I could sell on the side and split the profits with her. I should have been surprised at her duplicity until I recalled one year at Halloween when she arrived for my appointment dressed as a vampire, blood-letting tools in hand.
To learn whether there could be any chance of acting on this idea, I called my pharmacist. I requested getting my prescription filled early and shared my concern about whether he would have supplies on hand, considering the newscasters reported shortages. People were buying up pills, believing Trump’s hype.
The pharmacist assured me that he had plenty, blowing up my potentially illegal trafficking scheme. He had one other customer who used it, so he saved enough back for us.
Even though I didn’t ask, I wondered how people were obtaining pills without prescriptions or who might be writing fraudulent ones. I googled black market but got no results. That particular avenue for exploitation eluded me.
I googled side effects for hydroxy chloroquine and found many, including cardiac failure, blurred vision, diarrhea, and many other wretched outcomes. I’ve been spared the worst of them, so maybe I am immune to this current virus. I can’t let go of the idea.
One night I had a dream exactly to the point of my concerns: A gnarly old guy from AAA was selling drugs out of the trunk of his car. He was trying to take advantage of the COVID-19 scare to make a huge profit on hydroxychloroquine.
I couldn’t tell whether AAA stood for American Automobile Association or Arizona Authors Association. That’s the thing about dreams. It may not be either. The salient point here was that I recognized the gnarly old man.
It’s Trump, of course, with his rambling whine, selling a new snake oil to cure COVID-19. I hear he has stock in the company producing hydroxychloroquine. Otherwise how could he possibly know how to pronounce it with so many syllables?
On consulting the rumor website, Snopes, I found this: “U.S. President Donald Trump will benefit financially if hydroxychloroquine becomes an established treatment for COVID-19” is mostly False. “What's True U.S. President Donald Trump earns some income from three family trusts that are administered independently by J.P. Morgan, an investment bank and wealth-management firm. These trusts are in part invested in mutual funds that themselves are partially invested in companies that produce hydroxychloroquine.”
So there you have a Trump fact we’ve come to accept. It’s true and not true at the same time. Yes, he’s making money on the drug, but not enough to make it matter. He has moved on to bleach and light.
Some scientists are testing hydroxychloroquine as a possible cure for COVID-19. A few doctors are using it as a treatment for infected people. If that turns out to be effective, would I be immune to the disease?
The most recent news suggests they’ve run amok and have killed enough folks to stop the experiments. Conclusion—don’t listen to the president. Unfortunately not enough people have learned this rule. I could have told them he’s not to be trusted a long time ago. In fact, I did but my was voice lost in the wilderness of Facebook.
Feeling anxious, I wanted to stay alive, but ultimately for what? Is my life worth saving? More to the point in this environment, is my life more valuable than my sons, who are working from home because they have high-paying jobs or my grandson, who is at high risk of contamination in a grocery store with a low-paying job? A life’s worth seems flipped on its head. At least for me at this time.
I dread writing my feelings down and at the same time want to, at least to memorialize the episode of horrifying history I’m experiencing.
With copious bouts of writer’s block, the same doubt has assailed me since the day I took early retirement from teaching so I could devote myself to writing. Ironically, I only respond to deadlines, self-imposed or created by dent of my membership in a critique group. Thus, I have to have a deadline to do what I supposedly wanted to do and managed to pen these pages in time. Sketchy as this approach seems, it’s all I’ve got.
For the past few mornings, I’ve awakened from dreams feeling pulled away from a task. I’ve volunteered in the dream world to work on a team to create a cure in the astral world for the virus in the real world.
Maybe this bears out my previous dream of the gnarly old man from AAA. Perhaps he’s from the Astral Analog Assembly. If that isn’t an organization, maybe I should found it myself.
With such dreams to fortify me, I imagine myself walking through the hospital immune to all disease. I swoop in and touch the sick people and they are magically cured.
How cool would it be to be a superwoman destined to end this sorry business we are living through?
Wouldn’t you love it too? We’re all wannabe superheroes at heart.