As I l limped my way into an immediate care center in my home state of Illinois, I was met with markings on the ground, people directing every movement I made and a thermometer placed by my forehead.
My temperature was 98.1, so that meant I was safe.
This defining number was written on a wristband, tied onto me and yet again I was given directions from a distance, with loud voices so I could hear and gentle finger pointing.
The large facility was eerily quiet. Everything seemed brand new and sterile. If I walked by anybody, feet were immediately shifted and eye contact was avoided.
A few days prior, I stepped wrong off my stairs and hurt my foot badly. I put off going to the doctor because of safety reasons and didn't want to leave the house if I didn't have to, but the pain was becoming so intense I would just sit and cry.
When I entered the waiting wing for my health care provider, I stood at the door and a young man with tired eyes looked up at me:
"Are you Annelise Wells?"
He said I was all checked in as I observed the waiting room: A mom with a young child, a woman with a bad limp, a receptionist on a call with the radiology wing. Everyone was wearing masks, including myself. Masks seem normal to me now.
Posters were plastered everywhere with proper mask instructions and how to keep safe from COVID-19. I felt as if I was living in some sort of dystopian novel.
I chose a seat in the far corner to be as isolated as I could, nobody dared to look at each other.
After being called in for my appointment, I met with nurses and doctors. I told them I was luckily healthy, minus my foot injury. When they asked me how my situation was going, I told them all I was suddenly brought home from college.
To this, each doctor replied: "I'm sorry" with a genuine sigh and sad eyes.
It turned out I was the office's third foot injury of the day: whether that is from stupid accidents like me or people being more active, I couldn't tell ya.
The doctor kept apologizing for the long time that I was there, which in reality was only a few hours. There are so many more crazy things going on and I told him no need to worry.
As he was examining my foot, he looked up at me and said: "the whole world truly is upside down."
I got X-rayed and it turns out I did fracture my foot, and will be wearing a boot for a while and going to a follow-up appointment with a specialist. At least I won't be missing much, and I will have the opportunity to get a lot of rest.
After I left the office and got back into my mom's care, I took off my mask and let out a huge sigh. I then realized something: I was exhausted of being in that stressful environment, and I was only there for a single morning.
I got to leave the care facility after a few hours, but those working there have to go back the next day. And the day after, and the day after.
I feel so lucky to be able to have gotten the care that I needed during a time such as this. I could see the dedication and exhaustion throughout my time at the care facility.
Thank you to all of those working on the front lines of this pandemic. You are truly public servants and I appreciate the risk you are taking to help keep everyone safe. Even if it sounds cheesy, you truly are heroes, and I appreciate everything you do. Truly, thank you so much for your service. Thank you.