From Within

Carter Pesson

Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, MS2 (MD/MPH)


May 5, 2020

New Orleans, Louisiana

The streetcar rattles the bars on our windows like a guard’s baton on prison bars. Those same bars that kept us safe in the New Orleans heat now keep the world safe from us—from the virus we carry. Three medical students in a century-old Uptown house, quarantined from the world.

The days seemed to pass slower now. Later wakings turned into later nights. The mixer in the kitchen whirred more regularly than ever before, making bread to sustain and comfort the sick. Across the hall, you could hear wheezing. Breathing so strained it sounded like a sob. That night, her breathing became so strained that we went to the emergency department. Calling prior, asking for protocols, the emergency department had none. Hours waited without precaution, without heed for the well, for those without the virus. The physician administered no test, provided no relief, and sent her home with an inhaler prescription. Probably bronchitis, he decided. A pandemic was declared later the following morning.

Another day or so passed before we were able to get her a test. It was a forty-minute drive to the nearest facility. Forty minutes. They had protocols, asked a thorough history. The provider treated empirically for potential pneumonia, as he acknowledged test results would take around five days to return.

In the following days friends dropped off groceries on our porches. Video-chats were all too common and virtual classes began. They became more common than the texts we all too often send haphazardly. We cooked, laughed, cried, and waited. Waited, oh so patiently. The wealthy and famed received their test results. We did not.

A phone call. No test results yet. Maybe Friday. Friday came and went. No test results yet, likely within the next week.

Our household quarantine will be over by the time the results are returned.

Meanwhile, cases in our city—our beloved bowl—are running rampant. Tests are not available, even to those all too familiar navigating our healthcare system. Masks are lacking at our hospitals. Information is scarce. These abhorrent realities are surprising to none.

New Orleanians are accustomed to these types of disasters. Our freezers are well-stocked and there is always an abundance of wine in our cabinets. We joined the masses, our neighbors, on our porches. Sitting in the balmy, humid river breeze that smells of springtime pollen and hope. You can hear laughter and song among the old oaks; you can smell roux, cooked with love and boredom, on the stove.

All is still beautifully broken here.


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