Like a Zoo Animal

I've been messaging with a woman in Maine who has COVID-19. We were sharing our hospital experiences and she said she felt like a zoo animal. This really struck me. At the time, I started to cry because I could really relate to that comparison.


You're progressively getting sicker at home. What started as a little chest pain has turned into a 104 fever. You've never felt this sick. Meanwhile, you're getting bombarded with media messages about thousands of people dying of COVID-19. You don't hear stories of survival. You start to think, "Is this it for me?" After weighing the many pros and cons of going to the emergency room, you head there because you just don't know what else to do. It feels like you've entered a sci-fi movie. Makeshift walls. Everyone covered from head to toe. Restrictions on who can enter.

You get admitted to your room on the COVID floor. It's been days since your test and though you still haven't gotten your results, you know you've got it. Your nurse runs about getting you set up. He leaves and there you are with your thoughts. You're too weak and tired to reach out to your family - besides which, you don't want them to hear the fear in your voice and you're too exhausted to fake it. You're being monitored from a separate room because everyone in this dystopian novel you're now living in is doing their best to avoid you - not from spite, of course, but from fear. Hours will go by without seeing anyone.

Interactions with hospital staff are brief. If you're not on top of it when they enter your room, you'll miss your chance to get a fresh cup of water. You overhear them talking in the hallway about their fears and frustrations. No one is quite sure how to be. When you ask a question, it's often met with, "We don't really know." Every time they leave the room you cry. You feel dirty, diseased, almost like you brought this on yourself even though you have no idea how you contracted COVID-19 since you work from home and started isolating earlier than anyone else you know. You start to fear yourself as much as they fear you.

Your mood ebbs and flows. One moment, you're feeling guilty asking for new underwear because the nurse on duty couldn't get gowned up fast enough to get in and help you to the bathroom. The next minute, you're angry and just want to yell, "I don't want to be here either!" And then in the next moment, you feel such relief that one of your nurses stays in your room to talk with you for five minutes like you're an actual person, instead of....well...a zoo animal that's ready to pounce.


  • I felt your fear and frustration in every sentence and I am sad you had to experience feeling like a zoo animal but also happy you are doing better! Keep working hard to get back to 100%.

    OBrian Woods
  • I think of you often friend. I wish I could hug you and that we could talk about an anti-racism book. I share your story widely because I fear that until someone knows somebody who has suffered as you have this just doesn’t feel real to them and they don’t understand that what we’re doing now is flattening the curve. All my best.I can’t wait to talk about books and social issues again someday. Virtual hugs!

    Angie Capelle
  • This is so very very sad!!


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