Happy Hours in the Age of COVID-19

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by Annie Dixon |

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Every fall, our religious arts studio exhibits along with half a dozen other specialized vendors at a regional gathering of clergy. In flush times, we distributed gift bags, raffled off prizes, and sponsored happy hour, complete with a classical guitarist providing the entertainment. In lean times, we simply handed out brochures, hoping for the next big project to subsidize a future round of swag, sips, and sounds.

For over 20 years, this has been our main promotional and social event. We occasionally exhibited successfully at other regional and national events, but this was the only event we religiously attended. (Sorry, pun intended.) With our highest concentration of work showcased in this region and within this denomination, we always came home with new leads. Besides, it is an annual opportunity to reconnect with clients who have become friends and with our own pastors who have been transferred to new assignments.

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From serendipity to solitary

The year my husband, Ronald, was struck with atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome (aHUS), the gathering fortuitously was held in our town. He wasn’t up for traveling then, but I was able to host the usual exhibit table at a hotel just a few blocks from our studio. I even swung by the house to pick him up for our date at happy hour.

But things are different now. Last year, the event was planned for the state’s capital city, but was canceled due to COVID-19. That was fine with us, as we hadn’t ventured far enough from home to necessitate a hotel stay since the pandemic started. We have communicated with clients via phone, email, Zoom, and the occasional day trip to a job site.

But this year, it looked like the gathering would happen, and we had to decide whether and how to congregate and network in the age of COVID-19.

Lots of possibilities

A new venue just half an hour north of us was announced this spring. I made reservations early to keep our options open. But as the time approached, we hesitated. COVID-19 cases were on the rise in the area. Did we want to be mingling? Eating in the restaurant? Sleeping and showering in a room that someone else from somewhere else inhabited the day before we checked in?

We considered driving up and back each day and packing a lunch. But not only would that restrict us to club soda at happy hour, it also meant no guest room for my husband to retreat to if he got tired during the long days.

We contemplated the option that I attend daily by myself. The clergy are all vaccinated due to the requirements of their work. Lots of personal interaction, from church services to visiting the sick qualified them as front-line workers, eligible for early inoculation. But we had been hearing about breakthrough cases in those who are vaccinated, as well as the possibility they could still be carriers. The prospect of handshakes and hugs, shared laughter, and borrowed pens felt risky. What if I got sick or became an asymptomatic carrier?

The reality of COVID-19 and aHUS

Living with aHUS multiplies the concerns of living with the threat of COVID-19. Not only are we concerned about catching this new virus, we worry that it could trigger an overreaction of my husband’s immune system. COVID-19 and aHUS pose a threat, and what is the point of securing new commissions if Ronald’s health is threatened in the process?

We had to acknowledge the limitations of living with a rare disease as we considered how to maintain our livelihood. So, we opted to stay home this year. Instead, I am rediscovering the fine art of the handwritten note to accompany the new brochures we are mailing out. I am spending many quiet and happy hours keeping in contact with our clientele in a way that keeps my beloved artist healthy.

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Note: aHUS News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of aHUS News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to aHUS.

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