Author: Stacey G Benson

Mother of four, wife of one. Eager follower of Jesus.

If only we could see COVID19

As a general rule, we Americans do not like to be told what we can and cannot do. There’s been a lot of that going on in the last four months, and it is making us uncomfortable. As I move around in my mostly reopened community, I am seeing a lot of people wearing masks. I see many who are not. I see lots of folks ignoring the advice supporting social distancing. Even I, immersed in COVID19, am growing weary of it all. We are not accustomed to having to hold our focus on something for more than a couple of news cycles. And as much as I want to talk about something, anything, other than this cursed virus, I have to force myself to stay engaged. We are not done yet. We cannot afford to grow weary in this fight.

The spread of infectious disease is a big deal to me. Matthew and I lost an infant son to the unintentional but devastating spread of infection in a healthcare setting. Since that time, at every opportunity, I have promoted and encouraged practices to prevent the careless spread of infection in healthcare. I even did my master’s thesis on a method to promote hand hygiene practices among healthcare workers. The manner(s) by which infections spread is not a mystery to us, but there is still room for improvement even among those of us who understand the subject better than most. It has been an uphill fight. A worldwide pandemic has helped, but it should not have taken that to motivate us.

Countless studies support the theory that we must have human contact to promote mental and physical well-being. While it is vital for our survival, it is through human contact that we pass disease among us. We cannot see the germs on our hands or floating through the air as we speak, breathe, cough or sneeze, but they are there.

Oh, how I wish we could see it. Being able to see biological, viral, and fungal organisms on our skin or in our breath would completely solve this for us. I believe my son would be alive today. If we could see the germs, we wouldn’t be fighting an invisible enemy. But since we cannot see them, it is hard to stay vigilant. We begin to doubt their existence and their impact. We think, “This can’t be necessary. They are blowing this whole thing out of proportion. I do not like being told what to do. Who are these ‘so called’ experts? I know what’s best for me and my family”.

We grow suspicious that those in power are using this to control us. I have stopped getting my information from those sources. I am listening to researchers who have no other agenda than genuine concern for the public health in their communities. There are people whose primary focus is intervention and mitigation of this virus so that the majority of us never know what it is like to endure the worst of this monster. They are relentless, they are tired, and they are determined. I am listening to them.

The truth is, as much as we want one, there just is no quick fix for this.

The public demand for a quick fix has those studying the issue prematurely putting out every scrap of information they can come up with, and it leaves us feeling jerked around. The better option might just be for us to sit back and wait on them to work the problem through. And while we wait, we wear a mask, wash our hands, and protect the most vulnerable around us by keeping our distance.

We know cloth masks aren’t the best. We know they do not prevent the spread of the tiniest particles. (Most of us couldn’t stand to wear the masks that are designed to do that, even if they were available.) But cloth masks do help.

And shouldn’t we want to help?

COVID19 is here to stay. In time, we will beat it back into submission, and we will have a vaccine. Yes, we need to continue to live, but we must also grow through this experience now, though, because this will likely not be the last time we face such an enemy. Lurking somewhere is the next one to come. It is brewing in a lab or growing in strength in some unsuspecting species, just waiting to make the jump to human hosts. If we get our response to this pandemic right, we will be better equipped to knock back the next one. It will be easier to say, “Been there, done that. Bring it on”.

I truly wish we could see the germs on our hands, on the surfaces around us, and in the air we exhale. I believe our conversations and responses to the spread of all infections would be different. But because our enemy is invisible to the naked eye, we have to combat any urges we have to go rogue on this. We cannot afford to choose that path.

How this plays out really is up to us.

COVID19: It’s not real until it is. It’s real

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.

Anniston Blocks Coronavirus: Come on, guys, this is embarrassing…

It’s been a while since I posted here on Cracked Pot Pieces blog. I’ve just not been really motivated to write so much lately. Life is busy and full of distractions. I think you all understand that! We are all busy and distracted. It’s kind of an epidemic in our society… which brings me to the reason I feel motivated to write today.

It is about the novel coronavirus epidemic that has the attention of the world right now. The position I have requires that I pay attention to those sorts of things. Things like Influenza, Ebola, and new, emerging viruses that threaten to make us all sick, and worse. I am proud to say that the healthcare institution I work for has earned the designation as an Ebola (or other serious infection disease) Receiving Station for our region. That means that a team of professionals have trained (and continue to train), and the institution is prepared to take care of, a victim of a serious infectious disease at our facility until that patient can be transported to Emery Hospital in Georgia. We are proud of that designation. The community is proud of that designation. We could never imagine anyone from our community that would stand in opposition to us helping a person in such need.

And yet, that is what is happening with regard to the novel coronavirus that is plaguing the world right now. (Perhaps I should not say plaguing?) Not sure to what I am referring? You simply have to go to CNN to find out that the good folks in Anniston have refused to allow Americans who were exposed to the novel coronavirus ride out their quarantine at the FEMA Center for Domestic Preparedness located there. This center trains First Responders from around the country to handle chemical, biological, and radiological threats. These people know what they are doing. They are well prepared and ready to help. But no. Not in “our town” because “we are afraid”.

This is embarrassing.

Here’s the thing. If you have ever had the common cold, it is highly likely that you have had a coronavirus. It is a fact that the one plaguing, err, impacting the world right now is brand new, and we are just getting acquainted with it… it is still a common kind of virus. We know its family, but this branch of the family tree is still new to us. We don’t like new. We don’t like how quickly it is spreading across the world. But spread it has. And it has affected some of our own… but we don’t want to help them here in Alabama. Can you tell that this bothers me? Seriously? We are going to turn AMERICANS away when we have a proper facility, with properly trained people, to help them? What is our problem?

Fear. Fear is our problem. We have a lot of emotions. Fear, however, is a spirit. You doubt these words? Let’s fact check. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline”. Fear is not an emotion. It is a spirit and it wasn’t given to us by God. No, from God we get power. We get love. And we get self-discipline. All of which stand in complete opposition to the fear that has led our politicians to block fellow AMERICANS from coming to our state for help.

During times like these, I am reminded, sadly, of just how fragile our polite society is, and just how easily something like fear can change us. We are not the kind of people who turn fellow Americans in need away. Alabama people are good people. Alabama people help their neighbors and stand up for those in need. At least we used to. It’s time we remember that we are to be motivated by power, love, and by self-discipline. It is those things we employ when we need to help a neighbor in need. Fear never helped anyone.

Life Moves Pretty Fast

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

That’s a quote from one of my all-time favorite movies, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which came out in 1986.

I am not proud to say that I am guilty of not stopping and looking around often enough. Ferris was right. Life does move pretty fast. I mean, it’s already been thirty-three years since Matthew Broderick looked into the camera and delivered that line. Mercy. 

I teach my students in Sociology class about situational awareness. Most of us are flying through life, our noses in our phones, and missing the world going on around us. It’s sort of epidemic in its impact. Life is happening right in front of us, and we would rather see what’s happening on a six inch screen. Our grandparents and great grandparents would truly think we are nuts. Maybe we are. In a world that is growing more dangerous all the time, we are paying less and less attention to it… like lambs to the slaughter. 

I’m not preaching. I am guilty. So guilty. I am super busy. I work a full time job at a large hospital in town, and I teach Sociology at a local ministry school. My father, 82, lives with me. I have six mostly grown children, but you never stop being a mom. And I am a full time wife. I have a few friends, hobbies, and interests I pay attention to when I have a minute to slip them in. I know. It’s absurd.

But I am aware that I don’t hold a corner on the busy market. We all pack in as much as we can each day, and most of us fall into bed only after the alternative would lead us to a potentially catastrophic result. Then we get up the next morning, stumble into the shower to start the whole thing over again. I’m exhausted just writing about it.

My point is… we need to slow down a bit. Once in a while.

I decided to do that recently. I attended an event in support of an organization (www.blessedbrokenness.org) that I am privileged to serve which offers help to couples dealing with infertility. It was sort of a nice Thank You to all those who had supported the ministry with their financial gifts this year. It was held in a snazzy little art gallery. I decided to slow my roll a bit, take the time to look at the art hanging on the walls, appreciate the artistry and talent, and soak it all in.

My daughter is an artist. She hopes to one day support herself through her art, but currently she still has a day job or two. She is so very talented, and I believe that one day her art will hang in galleries like the one I visited last night. As I walked through the gallery I prayed, again, for that reality.

As I turned my attention to the presentation for the evening, a really nice video played that spoke to the mission and vision of the organization. Right smack dab in the middle of the video was a piece that my daughter had drawn more than two years ago for the study book this group uses with those it tries to help. Right there, projected on the wall of that gallery, was a piece of art my daughter created. Not ten minutes prior, I had prayed for her art to be on the walls of a gallery like that one, impacting people for the glory of God.

I know, you know, and God knows that’s not exactly what I meant. But I saw it as a confirmation to me that He heard me. And I certainly heard Him. But only because I decided to slow my roll long enough to be able to hear Him.

I hope that in the hustle and bustle of this holiday season, you will take some time, a moment here and there, to slow down and listen. Let’s lift our heads, turn our hearts to Him, and pay attention. He is speaking, and we don’t want to miss it.