What Does the Ferret Say?

I’ve been following the story of the woman in Dallas who can’t leave her apartment because a friend who stayed with her is now hospitalized because he has Ebola. 

 The Dallas chief of police said some people in the household had been NON-COMPLIANT, meaning that the two young men, her cousins, had gone out of the apartment to get some food.  The police had told them they couldn’t go out, but neither the city or state health officials had thought about getting the woman and her cousins any food. 

 Five years ago, I was put in quarantine in St. Luke’s Hospital in Houston.  Initially, my friend Geoff had taken me to a Doc in the Box because I was having an asthma attack, the first in fifteen years.  For hours I was hooked up to oxygen, thankfully, until it was decided that I should be transferred to a hospital where I could get “one more night’s worth of oxygen treatment.”

 After two days in the hospital, it seemed almost like an afterthought when the nurse came in to swab my throat to see if I might have the flu.  They were on the verge of discharging me, certain I had a cold complicated by the fact I’m asthmatic. 

 Later in the afternoon, three men arrived in Hazmat suits and proceeded to put yellow tape around my door, along with signs that warned that the person inside the room was HIGHLY CONTAGIOUS.   

 That was news to me.  My doctor had not yet told me the test results of the swab.


I was in isolation.  I was isolated.  No friends were to come in my room.  I had no lover.  But presumably he wouldn't have been allowed in either.  

 I felt as if I were in a crime scene. 

More than that—like the woman in Dallas—I felt as if I had committed a crime. 

 I was sitting on the bed, gazing out into the hallway, when my doctor came by—and from the middle of the hallway, he announced: “You have H1N1.”

 My room was small.  My world had shrunk.  I was an untouchable.  

 The woman in Dallas is in a two-bedroom apartment.  But she has been exposed to EBOLA.  I realize that’s much worse.  I’m just saying--My room was very small.

I feel terrible for her.  Really, really terrible, large apartment notwithstanding. Two cousins, notwithstanding.  And as the news people keep saying, "We don't know the nature of her relationship with the Ebola victim."  I completely believe he is her lover.  

 From the interview with Anderson Cooper, it is clear  this woman is freaking out, and rightly so. Anderson Cooper has now made sure the woman is getting food.  He exposed her plight on national television.


When I was in the hospital, I learned that there were two other women also in the same hospital with H1N1-- they were on heart lung machines.  One was pregnant and both were younger than I am.

 That’s all I knew.  A nurse had told me this in confidence.

She also told me that news reporters had wanted to interview me, but were refused access—because “they” didn’t want to create a panic in the city.  I had not been given the opportunity to create a panic.  I’m not sure I would have—my oxygen level was at 40 for two weeks, so I really wasn’t talking---did not want to talk to anyone—for one of the few times in my life.  I did not have the breath to spare.  


The woman in Dallas is not sick (yet--I hope never) so she has lots of pent-up energy, and she let Anderson Cooper know that she is worried and hungry.

 When I was isolated,  I was pumped full of antibiotics and given high doses of steroids.  I wasn't worried but I was really hungry.  (steroids)


Steroids.  Oxygen.  Antibiotics.  No Visitation.   I wasn’t allowed to go outside, and it had become spring while I was there.  All I saw from my window were the flat tar and gravel roof tops of other hospitals in the Texas Medical Center, and parking garages, and some neon sign that was huge and blue.

Sometimes at night I sat like a monkey on the ledge next to the window.and put my face against the glass, my knees curled up to my chest. 

 Once, after I’d begun to feel a little better, I hung over the side of my bed in a yoga position.  A group of interns were walking by—on rounds, I suppose—and one young woman asked the older woman, “What is she doing?”  As if I wasn’t right there. My whole being seemed to have become off limits. 


 Now I want to talk about FERRETS. 

What do you do when you can’t leave your room?

Rent movies from Netflix and Amazon.

 I remember with almost total rewind/replay the documentary I saw while in lockdown.

 It was about ferrets and the people who love them.

 I had been pretty much ignorant on the subject of ferrets.


Actally not totally.  I remembered that the mayor of New York wanted to ban ferrets from the city, and when interviewed about this idea of a ban, he’d said ferrets were little better than rats.


BIG mistake on his part.


There was outrage and outcry.  It turned out that there were a lot more ferrets, and ferret owners in the city than realized—by anyone.  

 The mayor was stunned.  (On a side note: This mayor had recently been bitten by the groundhog that is annually disturbed by mayors who insist on pulling the poor animal out of his deep hole and out of his deep sleep. That’s a whole other story.)

 So I’m just saying that I had limited knowledge of ferrets—until I saw the documentary.

  Early in the program it was revealed that ferret owners usually become addicted to ferrets.  Really, no one had just one. They come in pairs, it seems.

 One chubby, joyful woman had a basement full of ferrets, in cages, lounging in their favorite manner—in hammocks.  "Ferrets are such fun," she said. " I can’t wait to get home from work to see them.  It is so restful.  Like other peoples’ cocktail hour.”

 She smiled happily and said,  “You can roll them like toys across a room, all the way across, back and forth.”

 She then demonstrated the rolling ferret game. 

 Ferrets, it turns out, are like furry tube toys.  Ferrets love to be rolled around a room.  The happy ferret owner would roll each of her ferrets like they were bowling balls, (though as I said, they are long not round.)  But she used a bowling ball technique when rolling them.


(Ferrets also steal things and are sneaky.  They take your socks and put them under couch cushions and such.)


Ferrets like to be taken on walks and held up like little periscopes . The cameraman showed a ferret in the arms of his owner, and the ferret was moving its head from left to right, right to left as he was walked through a suburb. 


I will never forget the blissful look on the ferret’s face.


At that moment, locked up as I was, I imagined how pleasant this outing was for the ferret.


I also thought I HAD to have ferrets , and that the first thing I was going to do when I busted out was to get a couple of ferrets.


 I had been told if I tried to leave I would be arrested.


Just like the woman in Dallas. 


But this morning when I read an update on the woman, and realized the memory of the ferret on a walkabout has stayed with me longer than many others.  This memory is like a sneaky ferret, poking his pointed nose at me, pushing me toward something else. This isn't about Ebola; this isn't about H1N1 and the CDC.

 What I’d never realized before—when I thought this memory merely a funny lasting memory taking up brain space—was that my real wish was and is –on steroids or not–-is to be carried in the arms of a joyful person; and to be given a tour of his neighborhood. To be rolled around, and then laid gently into a hammock for a nap.  Isn’t that what we all want?