Rafia Zakaria in The Baffler:
MY TWIN BROTHER IS A DOCTOR. We celebrated our birthday this past Tuesday, April 7: our first one with me in quarantine. He is in California, working the frontlines of the war against COVID-19. I am sequestered by a lake in Indiana; my chronic lung disease, a complication of rheumatoid arthritis, makes me especially vulnerable to the virus. The most frequent question twins get is “What it is like to be a twin?” It is also the most difficult question for us to answer. We are born and develop in such an intertwined way that it is impossible for us to imagine what it would be like not to have a twin. We cannot trace the genealogy of our implicit division of labor; when did we reach an agreement that I would be the talkative one? When did we decide that he would be the protective one? And when did we agree to be equally excitable people? We couldn’t tell you because we do not know. It is just the way it is, the way we are.
…This birthday was different. Separated by thousands of miles, we are both fighting battles. He is in harm’s way, diagnosing and treating patients. I am sequestered more strictly than most and likely much longer than most. I know that I have a truly terrible chance of surviving COVID-19, were I to contract it. Both of us live in the constant unrelenting paranoia that we could have been exposed, or endangered others, in different ways. I worry constantly and crazily about him, and he does the same for me.
So I thought hard about what to get him this year. I wanted it to be special, something he could not get or would not get for himself. Everything I could think of—framed pictures of us, fruit, cheese, our favorite snacks, cologne, clothes—all seemed banal against the high drama of the moment: a birthday falling in what the news is calling “peak death week.” All of these thoughts swam lazily in my head when I opened my medicine cabinet to take my medication. Like so many other patients with rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus, I take hydroxychloroquine, or Plaquenil, to control disease progression. When I began taking it years ago, I never dreamed of a day that the name would be all over the news, and even peddled by America’s reality-star president.
When I heard about hydroxychloroquine’s possible effectiveness in treating COVID-19, I immediately called my brother. I wanted him to get some for himself. Like many doctors, he was unconvinced: a few small studies, with very mixed results. His only concern was that I should have enough of the drug to take myself. Because he was so worried, I called my pharmacist to insure that my prescription could be filled. Days before the president announced his “feeling” that it was a potential cure and the drug became unavailable to many patients like me, my pharmacist filled a three-month prescription.
I do not believe the president when he says hydroxychloroquine is a cure or even a treatment for COVID-19.