Joy in the Time of COVID: In Which Calculated Risks Are Taken

As I’ve written before, my immune situation is iffy. Because MS causes my immune system to attack my nerves (hence the plethora of “MS gets on my nerves” merch), medications often interact with the immune system. My last one, Tysabri, prevented immune cells from crossing the blood-brain barrier, keeping my brain safe from new damage for five years. My current one, Ocrevus, suppresses B-cells, which play a role in the immune response. Studies show that because of this, folks on Ocrevus may not be forming antibodies post-vaccination. Other studies say, hey wait, don’t forget T cell response, which might be working fine! It’s all a frustrating mess, because while other folks are frolliclking about carefree post-vaccination, I’m doing constant cost-benefit calculations in my head.

A calculated risk

Y’all, I need me some joy. So I went to a Kesha concert last week with one of my favorite people, and I got a heaping scoop of joy. Glitter cannons! Snarly party anthems! Shirtless dancing boys! All in a concert venue teeming with vaccinated, mostly masked (barring the beer drinking) humans. Being of the less abled sort, I sat in a special section for folks like me with just four of us in the immediate vicinity. Barring the occasional queasy  look at the people dancing on the floor level, I felt giddy. Alive. Happy. And safe enough.

Rebecca and her friend smiling in their private seating area
So happy!

Panic after the disco

Last night I received a phone notification that I’d been in contact with someone that tested positive for COVID… on the date of the Kesha concert. I clicked through the DC public health website’s questionnaire. Nope, no symptoms. Sure, I’ve been a touch congested of late, but that’s allergies. Right? Surely it’s allergies. Oh good, this says there’s no need to quarantine or worry.

And yet.

I slept on it and awoke this morning to the news that a friend on Ocrevus has been feeling rotten and is doing tests to see what’s up. So far he’s negative (yay!) but his text sent my worry powers into overdrive. I have a work meeting in less than 2 weeks where I’ll see people I adore whom I haven’t seen since Feb 2020 AND people I adore whom I haven’t even met yet. There obviously is no good time to have COVID, but this would be an especially bad time for it.

In my morning haze I searched for local testing sites.

No availability
No availability
No availability

Okay, cool. Home test it is!

Out of stock
Out of stock
Out of stock


I felt like beating my head against the kitchen counter, and then I found a small local pharmacy that had… appointments! Today!

So now I’m sitting here awaiting 3:10 when I can get swabbed and pricked and know where I stand.

I can and am trying to ground myself in gratitude that I feel fine, which is an excellent sign. I’m also grateful that this is encouraging me to get an antibody test, which I’ve been considering since joining the 3 shot club. Will the results be meaningful given all I said above about B-cells? I don’t know. But the antigen bit will at least put my mind at ease.

A mind at ease-ish

I scootered up to the testing window to have my nostrils violated and finger pricked. By the time I got home, an email awaited.

Antibody type? Elusive.

Yay! No COVID!

Shit. No antibodies.

Am I surprised? Well, no. But there was a tiny piece of me hoping against hope that I’d be the exception. That maybe a few B-cells were hiding out, ready to leap into action when they were needed.

So I continue to calculate risk and find my joy where I can, which is mostly outside while wearing a mask.

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times: In Which We Begin a Series of Posts on the of the Joy and Heartbreak of Concert-Going with a Disability (1 of ?)

Neal and I have always enjoyed live music, but we have stepped up our concert game recently to make up for the fact that we aren’t vacationing this summer. This is the first in a series of posts about our live music adventures.
FedEx Field – After much deliberation, Neal decided that he could not let longtime favorite U2 come to the DMV (playing The Joshua Tree, no less) without being there. Being a dutiful wife, I agreed to join him. My only other visit to FedEx Field was for a football game back when I was able-bodied enough to walk into the stadium, and still the press of drunken fans and ensuing chaos then left me in tears. You’d think that would prepare me for the ordeal to come. (Spoiler: it did not.)
Everything about FedEx Field is a hassle starting with figuring out how/where to park. After several false starts, we were waved into the main lot and ended up quite close to the stadium. The entrance for folks on wheels was not one of the four closest entrances, however, and we had to ask three people before getting a certain answer about where to go. Once we got our elevator pass wrist bands and entered a lift, I foolishly breathed a sigh of relief.
FedEx Field does not allow its patrons to buy accessible seating ahead of time. The Washington football team’s website states:
Please note that accessible seating and parking is limited, so please arrive early to ensure availability. . . Accessible seating is available on all levels at FedExField. Fans in need of accessible seating should visit Guest Services, located on every level inside the stadium at Gates A and E, on the day of the game.
So, if like Neal and me, you have full time jobs and are thwarted by traffic, causing you to arrive as the Lumineers are Hey-Ho-ing their way through the opening act, you may be SOL. We kept our chins up, though, and found our way to the Guest Services line, which had about eight people in groups of two or three ahead of us. There was one wheelchair-bound guest in line with us, as well as a gentleman on a knee scooter, but mostly it was drunk, angry men in ill-fitting polo shirts taking up the time of the three stadium employees at the window, only one of which had access to a device capable of seat searching and ticket printing. So we stood/sat (I was in my wheelchair) as patiently as possible, neither kicking nor shouting at the numerous assholes that, in their hurry to get to the beer kiosk, stepped over my feet without so much as an excuse me. 30 minutes passed without any progress being made. A drunk bro from the back of the line pushed past us and was met with polite objections. “I’m not cutting! I’m going to yell at these people!” he replied. When I pointed out that yelling was not going to get us through the line any faster, he said, “What, are you just going to do nothing?!” Neal, my hero, said, “Sir I understand you’re upset, but I hope you aren’t yelling at my wife,” and the bro retreated.
After an apparent eternity, we reached the front of the line and were given two seats on an upper level. Before going there, we took advantage of the handicapped-only bathrooms nearby, both of which had lines of able-but-lazy-bodies outside. A sweet smile got me to the front of the line.
With empty bladders and tickets in hand, we felt newly optimistic. Another elevator took us up a level, and, with a little assistance from the inept but well-meaning FedEx ushers, we found our newly-assigned section . . . which could only be reached via stairs. We returned to the ushers, who pulled a frazzled, fresh faced ginger from Guest Services. He was all apologies as he grabbed our tickets and jogged back to his computer. He returned within 10 minutes with handwritten tickets. “This is the last accessible seat in the house. If someone else is there, please come get me.” We proceeded to our new new seats, and – glory hallelujah! – found an open spot for a wheelchair as well as an empty seat next to it. A huge sigh of relief was breathed. A beer was procured. The moment was documented (see below). The concert began!
And then three tipsy ladies showed up, puzzled that Neal was occupying one of their seats. He got up, but they remained distressed, clearly upset that they had separated this nice man from his wheelchair-bound companion. One leaned in, shouting, “Is your boyfriend okay?!” I proceeded to type a reassuring message on my phone about the situation and held it up to the face of the woman closest to me. She seemed to relax. 
It was less than ideal to enjoy a concert with Neal standing behind me, but our “seats” were outstanding and I think he enjoyed having room to dance. The ladies next to us were adorable hot messes (the audience was full of sloppy drunks — I guess folks are out of practice in middle age), all of whom wanted to know my name, hug me, and say how much they enjoyed sitting by me. This is a weird side effect of the wheelchair: people get extra friendly in a way that borders on patronizing. I try to take it in the spirit in which it’s offered.
Was it worth the hassle to see a legendary band? I’m unconvinced, but the concert made Neal awfully happy — and it was nice to share that with him (albeit through the occasional shoulder touch and backwards glance). I am done with FedEx Field, though. Until the End of the World.