Most scary things in the world are just scary for someone else. Tornados, hurricanes, human trafficking, school shootings. We recognize those things when they happen to others, acknowledge the seriousness of the issue, feel empathy toward the victims, and then we move on. It is not until tragedy strikes us personally that we truly are forced to stop and fully appreciate it for its real life impact. The same has been true of the COVID19 pandemic.
Before it was a pandemic, we watched the spread from afar in my office. We checked the number of cases in China. Noticed the trickle of a spread to a few European areas. Then we saw the cases on the west coast of the US and the case or two in Chicago. Still, we did not fully appreciate the coming storm. It couldn’t happen here, this is where we live. Things of that magnitude just do not happen here. We have the best healthcare in the world. We won’t have to deal with this on a large scale. Someone will do something. We will be fine.
Now I’ve worked more days in a row than I care to count. I don’t even know for sure what day it is. We watch as the virus ramps up in heavily populated cities like New York and kind of understand better how that can happen there. But how do we explain the outbreak in a small Alabama town? How do we respond to their hospital’s plea for more ventilators?
How do we supply our staff with adequate PPE in this new world where not enough PPE exists to go around? How do you reconcile relaxing infection prevention standards in a heightened infectious situation? You listen to plans for disinfecting disposable PPE and wonder if you have been transported to a third world mission hospital.
How do you look co-workers in the eye when they drive through your COVID19 testing site because they have been exposed and are now exhibiting symptoms? What about when one of them ends up in your own ICU fighting for their very life?
I wonder what that person would say to those who still think this thing is being blown out of proportion. I wonder if they would beg folks to stay home and follow the social distancing guidelines out there. I wonder if they would tell people this thing is for real, and now is not the time to be skeptical or critical of those in leadership who are trying to deal with a bigger problem than we have faced in this lifetime. I bet they wouldn’t care that most are bored out of their minds at home, trying to figure out how to deal with kids out of school and a faltering economy. I would think that landing in the ICU on a ventilator kind of puts it all in perspective.
I want normal life back. Well, mostly. Some things we have given up can stay gone as far as I am concerned. But I’d like to keep the compassion I am seeing. We could hang on to the sense of community in the midst of separation that is growing. The ingenuity of great Americans who are busy meeting the needs my co-workers are facing on the front lines would be a keeper. The spirit that makes America great… we’ve all but forgotten that, but it is nice to see it peeking back through. Those things I’d like to see hang around after all this is over and we find our new normal.
Most things aren’t real until they are. COVID19 is real. As we experience our first COVID19 related deaths in our institution this week, it doesn’t get any more real for us than that. Healthcare workers are posting pictures to social media stating “We are staying at work for you, stay at home for us”. It is a small ask, really. For all of us who are working hard during this time, do your part. Stay home. Stay safe. Deal with the boredom and be glad you have it. Wash your hands. Pray for our world.