Skip to content

Gym owner: ‘If they take [my mom] off the ventilator, she’ll die’

December 23, 2020

This community reporting project documents the coronavirus pandemic by recording the personal stories of Minneapolis residents and workers whose daily lives are in a state of flux. All interviews are conducted over the phone, and conversations are edited for length and clarity.

Jen Wilson, co-owner, True Grit Society gym

I’m trying to be positive and get through each day as it comes.  

My mom, who’s been hospitalized with COVID-19 for the past six weeks, is not doing bad but she’s not doing great. More and more things keep getting stacked on. Her lung collapsed last Monday, and she’s got a pneumothorax, where there’s air trapped underneath her lung. 

She’d been sedated in a coma for a month and it was hard to tell if her brain was getting enough oxygen, so they wanted to do some cognitive tests on her. 

It’s a difficult thing: You get wrapped around the fact that she’s sick and then they say she’s stable, so you feel like at least nothing more is happening. When I heard her lung collapsed, it was pretty devastating. It feels like playing Jenga — you just keep stacking up blocks and then at some point it’s going to fall. The human body isn’t meant to manage so many problems at once, but I’m staying hopeful. 

The good news is that they did an operation to get rid of the pneumothorax and pumped up her lungs. She had a good couple of days where she was breathing somewhat decently, so they were able to dial back her sedation. She came out of her coma and has been responding to demands to wriggle her toes. 

I got to FaceTime with her. She recognized me. She kept trying to say something to me. I got to talk to her for a couple minutes, but she gets pretty tired. 

It was such a blessing and a curse. If they take her off the ventilator, she’ll die. It was very jarring to see her mouth gaping wide open with tons of tubes down her throat and she’s trying to talk. Now I have this imprinted vision of her in my head — you never want to see your parent in this way. It’s such a shift in your mind to be thankful for something that really isn’t great news. 

She’s not dead, but the more immediate thing is she’s losing blood somewhere, they don’t know where, and she has a serious infection, they don’t know where. So it’s a really big up and down part of my life. 

It’s hard to watch the news about this whole thing. How often do you read something and think, “I know one of the people they’re writing about.” I see the statistic of 3,000 people who died in one day and think, “I am so close to being a part of that statistic.” It does something inside of me. It really knocks me back. It’s surreal.

We’re Christians, and it’s hard to reconcile your faith with what you want as a fleshful person. As a Christian, I’m supposed to be trusting that god has a plan and if she dies, then that is the plan and she goes to heaven. But I don’t want her to die. I still hope for the relationship I’ve always wanted to have with my mom. I think maybe after a brush with death, that could make things better. But the fact is she may never be the same — COVID pneumonia affects the fibers in your lungs for a long time. I haven’t talked to my family for three years, and in putting up those boundaries, I may never get that resolution I was holding out for. I do believe this was supposed to happen, but why? How is this a good ending? And if she does pass, how is that a good ending? It’s this really weird place to be and try to wrap my head around.

With the business, we think Gov. Walz is in a precarious position where he cannot win and has done a great job. But we both wish he would have doubled down and told us to stay closed. Instead, he said you can open back up but no classes. 

As a boutique studio, he did us no favors — he made it worse. We have to use our money and finances to open up the gym. You can’t turn on 25% of your lights or 25% of your heat. We’re still paying our instructors to put out online videos, and we still have to pay someone to come in, turn everything on and make sure people are wearing their masks. Honestly, we don’t even have that many people who are interested — I think just two.

So why are we open at all? Why are we working so hard? The answer is Marcus. He says, “Jen, we have to try.” Marcus is really big into politics while I’m like an ostrich who puts her head in the sand and goes “la la la la la.” We know they want to pass another bill that relates to leasing options with commercial businesses. We are behind in rent and, from Marcus’ perspective, we have to put our best foot forward. At the end of the day, if things don’t get better, we need to be able to say we stayed open at all the times when we were able to stay open. We’re playing offense right now. If the chips fall, did we do everything we could to stay open, maintain our business and try to grow our client base? If we’re talking to someone who wants to give us a grant and we say we weren’t open at all the times that we could have been, will that hurt us? Probably. 

I know we’re both exhausted — and safety is a bigger thing for me now because of my mom — but Marcus is better at looking long term and saying here’s what we need to pay attention to that’s coming down the pipeline.

My whole mantra is to be thankful for each day that comes, get through it and we’ll figure it out the next day.

Comments are closed.