Remembering SARS

After reading in the paper this morning about the latest virus in China, I am reminded of my SARS experience. I’d been visiting New Zealand and was on my way to Canada via Los Angeles. When I reached the airport. I was told that passengers traveling to Toronto had to report to Air Canada.

I wondered why as I passed through Immigration, collected my bags and went downstairs to the desk. An agent told me that there had been an ice storm in Toronto and the airport had run out of de-icing fluid. No planes were flying in or out of Toronto. She booked me into a nearby hotel told me to report to the desk next morning My luggage would be held at the airport.

I took my carry on bag and caught the hotel shuttle when it eventually arrived. I was very glad to reach my hotel room and collapse on the bed for a catnap. When I checked my bag I realized that for the first time I had forgotten to pack clean underwear. The hotel receptionist told me to catch a bus to the nearest shopping centre. I bought a pack of three pairs of underpants for much more than I’d normally pay for that item. I was too tired to be enthusiastic about purchasing anything else.

Next morning, an Air Canada agent told me Toronto was still not available When I asked where I could go, she mentioned a seat on a flight to Vancouver. At least it would be closer and in Canada so I caught that plane. In Vancouver, I was informed that there was a backlog on flights to Pearson and I should wait in the lounge check with the desk at t regular intervals. I was horrified when I walked into the lounge to find it full of Chinese people all wearing surgical masks. The television brought me up to date on the SARS problem and I felt very vulnerable in my maskless state.

Eventually a seat was found for me and the plane held many of the people I’d seen in the lounge. The boy next to me said that his uncle in Misissauga had insisted on getting a clean medical report before he allowed his nephew from China to visit his family. He certainly seemed healthy.

Some of my family members were doubtful about my health so I placed myself in voluntary isolation for 10 days. I read today that the new virus can spread from one person to another in 4 days. In Southern Ontario which was hard hit by SARS, senior were encouraged to get a vaccine shot. After hearing reports of horrendously long line-ups, I took a folding chair, a water bottle and a book. I was ushered straight into the building where a woman refused to believe I was over 65. I should have been flattered but i was just annoyed that I had to produced my driver’s licence as proof of age.

Now I am flying again and feel anxious about it. My local pharmacy has sold out of masks and I wonder if any are available. I feel even more vulnerable than I did before because of my current state of health. Wish me luck! And freedom from germs.