Perspective

People may wonder what it was like for me in the moments prior to launching on missions in Afghanistan or Iraq – was there some sort of ritual or process I went through to get in a mindset conducive to facing the inherent dangers of my job?

In reality, the mission or location never really mattered – aviation comes with risks no matter what the task is or where the flight takes you; the only thing that really changes is the levels of complexity and ability to adapt to the external threats and risks for each situation.

For some flights, however, the reality of the mission brought with it a certain level of anxiety and dread: “point of injury” (POI) for Medevac missions. Even then, the emotions were relatively localized to the receipt of the notification through the frantic mission… and, in some cases, still resonate years later.

We were lucky: the calls – though frequent in 2006-2007 – were chaotic but with an eventual end in sight with the arrival of our replacements and return to home. There were protocols, the mechanisms of injury were somewhat predictable, and the only variable seemed to be either the weather or the cycle of faith-based calendar events.

Not so with medical professionals today.

I have the honor of knowing many in the medical field, and browsing through Facebook and reading their perspectives over the last week or so, the personal level of commitment, concern, and determination is humbling… and cautionary:

I change into clean clothes and wipe down everything in my work pockets with a bleach wipe before coming home. Then I strip naked in my garage (from the clean clothes I changed into) and throw everything straight into the wash on sanitize. Then, straight up to the shower where I have to scrub AND wash my hair every time. Even if it’s multiple shifts in a row. Ladies, a lot of y’all know it ain’t good to your hair to wash that often. My hairdresser is gonna have nightmares when she’s done with me after all this is through.

[…]

I haven’t kissed my husband in over a week. I don’t even hold my son if it can be avoided. I feel guilty if I absolutely have to. Let that sink in for a minute. I feel guilty for having physical contact with my baby.

My anxiety is through the roof right now, and it was already bad before all this. I go to work and I come home. I eat crappy food a lot more than I want to because it has a longer shelf life often times and it allows us to go to the store less frequently.

I worry for my family and my friends. I worry for my coworkers. I worry for our patients and what’s to come.

Pray for us. Health care workers. EMS and first responders. Police. Grocery store employees. Everyone that HAS to keep working to keep the world turning.

Please. For the love of God. Stay home. All of us “essential” workers are tired of missing our families when they’re sitting six feet away and it’s only just begun.

-Julie

130a. Got home from work at 9p. I should be tired but sleep eludes me. 1st Hawaii COVID19 related death announced. 78 cases now. Shelter in place orders started today at 430p. Many of my patients are scared. I spend my days educating on prevention, on social distancing, and just listening and comforting and reassuring. Inside, my usual calm is replaced by angst, as I feel the pressure of an imminent wave about to bear down on us. I can feel the thickness and stillness of the air in this calm before the storm. I would like to think that my fears are unfounded. I know many reach for that shield of denial as a way to deal with their own anxiety. The scientist in me looks back at Italy, and now New York, where a friend’s unit tested 4000 with a 40% positive rate, and knows that our island healthcare resources could very well be decimated in the weeks ahead because we acted too late to self-isolate. Only time will tell. I hope I am wrong. But I am preparing myself, my family and friends and my patients, as best as I can. And praying in every spare moment.

-Lyla

That’s just two perspectives. There are many more, but what is key is even more critical: what isn’t being said. The fears unvoiced, the anger stifled, the resignation that any lesser person would succumb to… the hurricane of emotion that all of them essentially cork and shove away because the job that awaits them – the people they do not know, the families that aren’t theirs, and the community that often overlooks them – takes priority.  

Another friend is working towards her degree in nursing and is suddenly getting a good idea of the chaos that is part of the profession. I offered the best advice/encouragement I could muster:

…A baptism by fire produces the strongest and most resilient people.

No matter how difficult things get, you will shine with purpose and determination.

Folks in the medical profession – either physical or emotional health – begin each day with steps into the unknown and the repercussions of this crisis will linger for years to come, regardless of nationality, political affiliation, or other ancillary labels we love to quibble over.

They chose to serve the community around them long before the current crisis began, and they continue to do so for their own reasons and despite their own reservations and chances of exposure. They are the selfless heroes of today.

Two quotes came to mind while I took a break and pondered the purpose and conclusion of this post. One was from the 1986 song “Land of Confusion” by Genesis:

There’s too many men, too many people

Making too many problems

And there’s not much love to go around

Can’t you see this is the land of confusion?

Now, this is the world we live in

And these are the hands we’re given

Use them and let’s start trying

To make it a place worth fighting for…

The other is (predictably) from Battlestar Galactica (“Resurrection Ship, Part 2”):

It’s not enough to survive. One must be worthy of survival.

We owe the medical profession our gratitude, but not just the words and gestures of thanks. Rather, we can show our appreciation by doing what we can to take the load off their bowing shoulders: social distancing, good hygiene, and whatever it takes to stay out of their care.

…To be worthy of their devotion to us.

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