MLS Unites - 2020 - Wiebe column - with son

EDITOR'S NOTE: In order to address the important messages and programs taking place during the COVID-19 pandemic, Major League Soccer and the MLS Players Association launched MLS Unites, a league-wide platform that highlights the efforts of players, coaches, the clubs and the league.

BROOKLYN – First came the cough, a tickle in the back of her throat. The next day, chills, body aches and sinus pain. That night, crushing fatigue, a low-grade fever and loss of smell and taste. We isolated my wife in our bedroom. By the time Mindy, 24-weeks pregnant with our second son, started having difficulty breathing on March 19, I felt like I was living a nightmare.

I wasn’t sleeping. I was terrified. I was caring for my wife while wrangling a two-year-old. I scrolled Twitter and watched the news at all hours, hoovering up updates about COVID-19 and the pandemic unfolding in front of our eyes. Friends dropped groceries outside our front door. Her parents mailed surgical masks from California. I strategized about how to get her to the hospital, should it come to that. Mostly, I hoped she would walk out of the room better every morning.

I wasn’t sure we could even get her tested for what we could only assume she was fighting. And if she had the virus, I had a pretty good idea who gave it to her. Me.

My symptoms began on March 14: fever, chills, dull pain in my back and hips and fatigue that knocked me out of commission for the next two days. Was it that Friday trip to the grocery store, when shoppers were jammed shoulder-to-shoulder in search of food and toilet paper? Was it that Saturday visit to the park, where we took our son to blow off steam? Was it even COVID-19?

I don’t know. I was advised by the New York Department of Health and a doctor, via video chat, to stay home and continue monitoring my symptoms. Only those seriously ill, on the brink of hospitalization, were being tested. If it got bad, I was to go to the emergency room. It never got bad. I never got tested.

I felt better, and that’s about the time Mindy got sick. After urgent-care appointments and calls to consult with her obstetrician, we got the green light  on March 20. She is among the very fortunate, the tested. It took fewer than 15 minutes for the hazmat-clad nurses to process her and jam a swab up her nose and into the back of her throat. It took 24 hours for the report to ping her email inbox: POSITIVE, COVID-19.

In some ways, it was a relief. One less uncertainty in a sea of them. Slowly, she improved. It took nearly two weeks of ups and downs, better days followed by bad days and eventually enough good days for us to feel out of the woods. We are the lucky ones, but the curve keeps rising. From my window, I see the ambulances stop on my block. I have dozens of friends who’ve been sick, but can’t get tested. I know people battling pneumonia at home, hoping to avoid hospitalization. The death toll in recent days has hovered around 600 people a day in New York state alone.

I share what happened to my family because you should know it could happen to you and your family. And trust me, young and healthy or not, you do not want that. You don’t want to wonder if you or your partner or your child or your sister or your father or your aunt or your grandparent or anyone else, whether you know them or not, might have to fight for their life. You do not want what’s happening in New York City.

Our days are punctuated by sirens, a treat for my son, a little boy whose first love is emergency vehicles, but a dark soundtrack for those of us who know the scenes playing out in our hospitals, where there are freezer trucks for the bodies. Public life is gone, replaced by fear and improvised face masks: N95s, surgical masks, bandanas, scarves, t-shirts or whatever is handy. Lines at the grocery store stretch city blocks. The Empire State building pulses red at night, a foreboding reminder of the crisis we’re currently facing together.

We are hopeful, but we are realistic. We are isolated, but we are resolute. We are resourceful, but we are bored, just like you.

I miss Major League Soccer, the ebbs and flows of a season. I miss taking Concacaf Champions League gut punches. I miss early-round US Open Cup upsets. I miss Carlos Vela, Kevin Molino and Kyle Duncan. I miss the games. I miss the goals. I miss the storylines. I miss Saturday nights on my couch, with a couple beers and ESPN+. I miss sitting in the studio with Calen Carr and Charlie Davies on Sundays to break down the weekend.

Though I miss the game, I am inspired by all of you, this soccer community that’s such a central part of my life. I see the way you support each other, comfort each other, entertain each other in uncertain times. Most of all, I am inspired by all the people on the front lines fighting this virus, from first responders to doctors and nurses, to those keeping our hospitals and medical facilities clean and supplied. Thank you.

We don’t know when, but the game we all love will be back. When it’s safe to do so, MLS will return. That day can’t come soon enough.

Many of you are missing much more than soccer. Your health. Your safety. Your job. The health, safety and jobs of your loved ones. Our society is on indefinite pause, and, sick or not, we are all missing something. We are all suffering, some more than others. We are all in this together.

Keep washing your hands. Keep social distancing when you must step out for necessities. Keep quarantining if you’re sick. Keep following the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Keep doing it because millions have no choice but to go to work during this pandemic.

Keep doing it because the person checking you out at the grocery store is relying on you to help keep them safe. Keep doing it because you can’t be sure whether you’re just fine or just asymptomatic. Keep doing it because it will save lives. Lives with stories. Lives with loved ones. Lives with a future. Keep doing it to honor the lives already lost. They leave gaping holes in our communities.

Do it because it could be you, your family or your friends affected. We are all in this together.