perspective

Pandemic Dilemmas

(A note: sometimes posts for our blog sit on the backburner. There’s all kinds of reasons for this. The post below was written in April 2020.  It has lived in the drafts folder ever since.  Current news and trends brought it back to mind these past couple of weeks, and it seems as relevant as it was then, if not more so. The resources I worry about most now are our health care workers, but as you can read, those worries were already bubbling up last April.)

It was the classic problem.

Hans has a sick child.  Hans is poor and can’t afford the medicine his child needs to live.  Is Hans morally wrong for stealing the medicine his child needs to survive?

In the eyes of the law, sure he would be wrong.  Stealing is a crime. He doesn’t have the right to take what belongs to someone else.  But is he blameworthy?  If he does it, should he go to jail for it?  If he doesn’t steal it, isn’t there a different kind of penalty?

I was a philosophy major in college, specializing in ethics, or figuring out right / wrong / morality. I shouldn’t say figuring it out, since we rarely if ever got to the bottom of anything.  But we spent a lot of time thinking about Hans and these sticky situations, where different people have different rights and those rights cross or conflict.  Moral dilemmas.  So many of the ones that interested me most involved relationships, deciding who is more important, and trying to figure out a good reason why.

I’ve had my moments of anxiety during the course of the coronavirus so far.  But it’s the dilemmas that trouble me most. I get deeply, truly sad when I think about health care workers being forced to make decisions about who has access to life saving medical equipment if supplies are running out.

Here’s an example: Two 50-year old men come in to the ER at roughly the same time, in roughly the same condition, same medical history. About the only meaningful difference is that one of them has three kids, one of them has none. Should that be the deciding factor if only one of them can have a ventilator?

Of course, it only gets more complicated.  What if the one with the kids is overweight and pre-diabetic while the other is in good overall health.  Or one is married, the other is a widower (and what if the one with the kids is the widower, or the one without kids…does that matter?)  One is an affluent business owner with many employees who depend on him, the other is on public assistance.  One is insured, the other is not.  One is African American, the other is White. Add in factors of gender, age, medical history, addiction, other ailments that might be seen as patient life choices (like smoking) and others that are genetic.  You can see how the picture gets very complicated very quickly.  What matters?  What doesn’t?  Who decides?

In our medical ethics classes, we would talk about assisted suicide and the problems with a doctor “playing God,” deciding who lives and who dies…or in the coronavirus case, who even has the chance.

I know a taste of this, from when I was the one who made the decision to take my father off of breathing support to effectively end his life.  Even though he had prepared me to do it and I felt confident it was the right thing, it still stays with me. I will just say that all of this is simpler when it is clear cut.  Still, it is not simple and never easy.

I know there are people who question if this whole pandemic is real.  If all the staying at home and disruption of our daily lives is necessary.  As a member of a family who is supported by a restaurant, I face the same economic uncertainty that has so many people anxious, restless, angry, and scared. I can’t minimize that suffering, but I hope that the help in our communities and from our leaders will sustain us for a little while until we can get the virus more or less medically managed.

What wakes me up at night, though, is thinking of the doctors.  The nurses.  The medical heroes whose hearts and minds will be scarred from watching people die that they truly wanted to help.  That they could have and would have made a valiant effort to save in nearly any other circumstance.  The people they eventually had to walk away from because there wasn’t enough equipment to go around. The trauma to their hearts and minds is immeasurable, not to mention all the people who might not have a chance to survive if we run out of ICU resources.

I believe these moments say much about our values as a culture, as a society. Can we just sit tight for a little bit? Can we help our neighbors and loved ones survive this strange and challenging moment in history?  In my mind, if we can prevent the damage to those who care for us and give everyone a chance to get access to care, as they say flattening the curve can, we should.  If you doubt that this is a real thing, please find a health care worker and listen to them.  Please.

There are a million other issues with this situation.  Reasons to be angry, stressed, depressed.  Some day I may write about my worries over my students now trying to learn at home.  Or the heroism of medical workers who continue to show up and do their jobs when they are inadequately protected.  Or the many other front line workers, often forgotten and in high risk but low-paying jobs.

Surely, some day soon I may be writing about an actual Hans, who lost his hours at his job and needs medicine for his kids. Those stories are out there and more are coming.  The economic, social, mental, and physical impacts will be spinning out for years and years. Once this initial crisis has passed, we will turn our full attention to the suffering of many other groups who need help, who need heart, who need solutions. We will be writing about this for a long time. This is an endurance test. Both our patience muscles and our helping muscles must grow, strengthen, and sustain throughout this marathon.

But for now, in this initial fury, I worry for the doctors and nurses and patients.  It takes me back to those college classrooms, before I had kids of my own, when Hans’s predicament was nothing more than an interesting little thought experiment to ponder. Now I have kids.  And a lot more to lose.  I don’t wish true dilemmas on anyone.  While there is a choice, there is no win.

awareness

In the Dark

When I wrote a recent post called nightfall, I thought back to many other nights and the sounds that were different in life. A lot less peaceful. Scary. Bothersome. Then I thought I should share a different kind of nightfall. One many will never know and most would never enjoy.

The haunting night from a child’s eyes. One of many scary night scenarios that happen behind closed doors. Do you think you know what this story will be about?

Maybe you think know but I doubt you really could know unless you lived in these shoes. The sounds of the night that are not so bright. So here goes.

Boom! Wake up! A loud shriek from the other room. A bang on the wall. Now more pounding. A loud scream. That’s my brother making those noises. What is happening?

In the middle of the night it happened again!

What is it? Why am I wide awake? What time is it?

At first I didn’t know but then my parents explained it me.

Boom. Aaaaaaahhhhhh. Shake shake shake. Boom. Ahhhhhhhh. Ouch! Another high pitch shriek. A piercing duh duh duh duh duh sound on repeat. A fearful and painful scream.

That is my brother making those loud sounds as my parents rush to him. What is going on I asked?

Go back to bed, says mom.

I peek from my bedroom door. It is my brother having a seizure in his sleep.

My brother has had seizures since I was in my mommy’s tummy as a baby so I don’t know him any other way.

I love my big brother. He is the best big brother.

He can’t help himself when he has a seizure. It’s a medical problem.

Most people won’t understand seizures if they don’t get educated about them because people look okay on the outside but inside their brain they sometimes have a firework party that makes their whole body shake.

His body gets tight and shakes and he makes painful sounds for about 10 Or 20 seconds.

The time seems like hours when you have to watch your brother have a seizure but it’s only seconds.
Count 1 Mississippi
2 Mississippi
3 Mississippi
4 Mississippi
5 Mississippi…
6
7
8
9
10

See it’s not too long but now I have to try to go back to sleep. I have a test at school tomorrow. Wait so does my brother. Oh no.

My tummy hurts a little because I am worried about him. Mom says I have to sleep school starts early in the morning for both of us.

Just when my parents get him settled back to sleep,

it happens again. And again.

My parents say this is a cluster and I should go back to bed. But they don’t know I really watch my brother.

I watch him sleep to make sure he is okay. I don’t want him to hurt himself.

Oh no, here comes another one. Breathe my mom says breathe.

This is hard to watch. Even the sounds are hard to listen to.

My brother is so strong he can hurt somebody when he has a seizure. Watch out mom. She ducks as he flails and swings his arms and legs.

I watched him break a table when I was younger. I watched him hurt himself when had a seizure and bumped the wall too hard.

I wish the doctors could fix my brother but they can’t.

I am going to be a doctor one day. I want to help kids who have seizures. I wonder how many other people see seizures at night. My mom calls them nocturnal seizures. I call them terrifying.

Nightfall can be peaceful on many days in many environments however there can also be a darkness associated with nightfall. This example shows a glimpse into a medical environment that is extreme to some and normal to others.

Some children have a different fear of nightfall. The sounds of rage or alcoholism for example. These sounds play out a bit differently. Ponder those thoughts or scenarios as you set in for your nightfall. Somehow the sounds of crickets seems worlds away.

This post came from the vault. A vault of posts that are written but may not come to life until a later date. For this post it’s today.

As the world has changed so much with corona, some nightfalls have remained the same for some but magnified for others. Those with scary nights like the ones noted above still suffer on top of the uncertainties corona brings. It’s important to consider the burden of others who may not be as lucky as you when night comes.

perspective

Travel Updates

A while back, Chick 1 shared her experiences with travel during the pandemic.  I recently took a weekend jaunt and thought I’d share a view of today’s travel from my perspective.

We have entered the mask zone. We arrived in Tennessee at the very start of their mask mandate.  We “masked up” pretty much everywhere we went, from hotel lobbies to gas stations.  It became our reminder / rallying cry every time we got out of the car.  Starbucks even provided them on their counter.  (But, the indoor seating was closed and all traffic was one way.)

Buffets are a pandemic no-no, so we ordered off the menu then took breakfast sandwiches, pastries, and drinks up to the room to microwave.  Better than some of our friends who just got a grab bag with a granola bar and a piece of fruit.

Masks shopping.  Sanitizer in lobbies.  It’s becoming part of the scenery.

We were at a tournament, so the girls started their morning with temperature checks.  No team tent, instead we tailgated with our immediate framily group behind our car. All of the spectators wore masks on the sideline (or we were supposed to). I won’t discuss the bad behavior by some fans, but I will say that many tempers were on edge in the extreme heat and what I would say is extreme stress for many.

But, on the upside, we did have some great moments outside, at a distance, mask-free.  And thanks to the El Arroyo Sign for the giggle below, which hits a little close to home.

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Another glimpse inside pandemic life. What have you seen on your travels?  Let us know in the comments.   Be safe and keep smiling.

health, perspective

Doctor Doctor

Who called the doctor? Seems like many I know had to call the doctor this week. Maybe things are getting back to normal after COVID or maybe just the opposite.

Let’s start with my visit to the doctor. The dermatologist to be specific. Nothing traumatic or life altering just a quick zappy in and out visit but how this visit seemed so different!

It started in the parking lot. The parking lot is a make shift COVID drive-thru testing site. You see the white tent. The medical staff all suited up in hazmat gear in 90 degree heat. Same as it’s been for months but the past few days there were lines around the building and to the street. Why the mad rush?

After sorting through that I had to go into the medical building which has a pharmacy in the lobby. It seemed to be a senior citizen magnet spot. Walkers, wheel chairs, masks and lots of slow moving people. Once you maneuver that traffic you hit the elevator.

The elevator had signs for two people at a time so there was a wait. Then the two masked individuals look at each other like who is gonna press that button that could possibly have COVID on it. I just hit it. That opened up a conversation with the stranger who said she was glad I had a mask on or she wouldn’t have ridden with me. Interesting comment but I had to wear one for my appointment. No big ordeal for me.

Now I arrive at the second floor to have my temperature checked and had to answer a questionnaire. Then I could proceed to the window or shall I say plexiglass now. But again it’s different.

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Every other seat is marked off like a restaurant. Signs on the floor noting social distance rules. So much change. It’s a lot to comprehend. Then there is the chatter in the lobby. Should schools start up? Do you wear a mask outside? Just different chatter than pre- COVID. This was an experience for me. A people watcher I am. An observer. I took in so much this day.

Then I heard the news. My gym shut down. Somebody tested positive and a deep clean was needed. That was the first boom. Then a friend tested posted for COVID which was boom 2. Then another friend was exposed and had to go for test and is now playing the wait-and-see game. And let’s not forget about all the mental health mailers, emails and announcements circulating. Many are overwhelmed and really need the doctor.

The world we live in today is ever changing. A simple visit to the doctor is so much more complex. Society is weighing risks at every turn. Commerce has changed in so many markets. People are self-shamed when they let others know they have tested positive for COVID. One friend said it’s like telling the world you have an STD. Just not a proud moment in life. Hadn’t really thought about that.

As I worked this day I looked up at a cell tower and thought we have so much technology. The sky is the limit in so many arenas. Yet we are all frozen in COVID times to some extent.

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Will normalcy revert back any time? What is normal now anyway? Is anyone else sick of  COVID and the havoc it’s wreaked in your area?

I just needed to go to the doctor and somehow I ended up on this rant. At least I got a in-person appointment because telemedicine wasn’t a fit for my need.

Here’s to hoping I get to stay away from the doctor moving forward. It seems less stressful.

challenges

A Cautionary Tale

The countdown is on.

A few weeks until summer ends and school is back in session…or is it?

My district ended last year with over 40 unexpected days of digital learning due to COVID-19.

Now it is 6 weeks later.  Numbers of cases that seemed to be trending down in my area have sloped back northward.  School districts are starting to try to make decisions about how they will open schools. Cue the special meetings, surveys, and plans (subject to change, of course). Also cue the opinions, the feelings, the exceptions, the arguments, the fears.

Colleagues have asked me many times throughout my career if I would want to become a school administrator.  My answer is always a fervent and unequivocal NO.  Times like this only magnify those feelings.  I don’t envy the public scrutiny that leaders are under in this seemingly no-win time.

I understand…

A significant portion of the economy depends on schools being open.

Many kids have their best access to food, learning, and social / mental health resources when they are in school.

Being taught (in person) by credentialed professionals is what we believe works best for most students.

At the same time…

Many teachers and school workers are themselves vulnerable to serious COVID-19 cases, or live with and care for other people who have those underlying conditions.

This virus is still new and developing, so science is still catching up to understanding what it is, how it moves, and so on.

Our schools are mostly based on kids being close together and moving with organized freedom throughout buildings and surrounding areas.

All the money and power at stake make every decision a politically charged and controversial one.

Then there are the logistics questions that come along with schools opening…

How do kids ride a bus?  How do they have recess? Can they sing? Can they play sports? Will there be field trips or assemblies?  Anyone who has worked with elementary school kids knows that kids love hugs and playing together which often involves contact.  How do I police that? I can’t even start about the masks, or what happens when a suspected case pops up.

Will all the fun stuff just be stripped away? 

In the end, I know this:

No choice will make everyone happy.

No choice will keep everyone healthy.

No choice will meet everyone’s needs.

We will be doing the best we can given what we know, and know that what we know might change at any given time.  Not an easy position for any of us.

I went to a branch of our local public library recently.  They opened up the buildings a few weeks ago.  This gorgeous, light-flooded, award-winning building, created for people to congregate and spend time reading and learning, is full of caution tape to keep people out or at least moving.

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I’m not sure there is enough caution tape to insulate school kids and workers from what we are facing. Our best protections will be patience, good faith, positivity, resilience, flexibility and showing kids and colleagues that we care about them in every way we can imagine.