Like many of you, I've spent the past six months wondering how long this pandemic is going to last. So many lives have been disrupted by job loss, illness, depression, home schooling, lack of vacation time with families, trying to sort our priorities and yes, even the death of someone close. It's been a time of uncertainty for everyone, almost worldwide, and in many ways has brought us closer together as a human family because we are going through similar experiences at the same time.
I keep reflecting on what it is I should be learning during this difficult and often frustrating time when so much of our lives have changed or come to a standstill. Being semi-retired, my daily routine has not changed as drastically as many. I get up each morning at the appointed time, check my blood sugar and then begin my day by reading from the scriptures and kneeling in prayer to ask for blessing upon the ill, the downtrodden, the sorrowful and unhappy and those making decisions that affect the quality of of our lives during the coming months and years. Then I try to find something constructive to do that will keep me away from so much of what is being broadcast on the news. Much of the time it is our most detrimental source of information because the facts reported are often less-than accurate and slanted in a way that purposefully misleads us into believing something that isn't true.
Since the weather has been nice, and there's been plenty of yard work and gardening to do, I haven't felt quite as oppressed by many of the imposed restrictions as some of my friends who, for various reasons, are not able to spend time outdoors on their own property where someone isn't telling them what they can and cannot do. I've had bumper crops of tomatoes, squash and pumpkins this year that I've been able to share with family and friends, and the flowers have been lovely. I thoroughly enjoy my morning hours outside before the temperature gets too hot. And regardless of the fact that I'm usually too exhausted to do much the rest of the day once I come inside, I have the satisfaction of knowing that my yard will look good for a few days before I have to start the process of weeding and pruning again.
That said, I still have hours when I feel unrest, uncertainty and a lack of motivation to do anything other than watch reruns of old television shows, eat junk food or stare at puzzle pieces for hours while trying to figure out how any of them go together. I take care of my granddaughter and her puppy as often as I can, make an occasional trip to the store and take care of personal business. But living alone, I often find myself starved for human interactions that can't really be felt through a text, and email or even a phone call. I long for the day when I can return to my two-day a week job serving others who are not able to do certain things for themselves.
I've looked at the numbers of Covid-19 cases and supposed deaths around the United States, especially in the state where I live, on a daily basis the past few months. I've even tried to understand the CDC's report where it was made abundantly clear that the numbers have been inflated and most people who get the virus will recover with little cause for concern. In my own state, 42 percent of the people who have died from the virus have been over the age of 85 and living in longterm care facility. Of the remaining 58 percent, most of those were still older than 65 with underlying health conditions. That's given me a lot to consider, while still following social distancing and mask regulations because I want to be a good citizen.
I'm not overly fond of the idea of getting sick with anything. I have a number of underlying conditions and am over the age of 65. That puts me in a high risk category to begin with. But I still took a vacation to see my sister in Missouri and spend all the time with family that I can. I was thrilled when the restrictions were lifted enough that my granddaughter was able to go back to school 4 days a week - masks and social distancing rules still being applied. I hope that will happen for all of our children soon. So many of them are living in horrid conditions and school is the only place where they get enough to eat, feel safe and have someone they can talk to. But with the regular cold and flu season just beginning, I have my doubts about how long that will last. I may be trying to help my granddaughter navigate on-line learning again before much longer.
That's why I decided to share an open letter a doctor in Utah wrote a few days ago. I like to believe our country will soon be healing from more than just a health pandemic, but it helped me realize that now is not the time to become less vigilant in keeping ourselves and those around us free from illness of every kind. I'm including it simply because it's food for thought and it helped clarify my perspective on what the next few months could be like for a great many of us. Hope your day is filled with sunshine and love.
A letter from Jon Darin Willardson (one of the ED physicians at American Fork Hospital ) he wrote this today for his neighbors and friends and is fine with it being shared if it will help spread awareness...
I don’t know if many of you know me. I am an emergency medicine physician at American Fork Hospital. I have tried to avoid getting on facebook for my own mental health during this Pandemic. I feel now obligated as one of your neighbors to say something. I am scared and don’t want you to get sick. Things are getting worse in our hospital. Last night I admitted a patient to the last available bed on the med/surg floor and another patient to the last available bed in the ICU. I had to transfer another patient to Utah Valley Hospital and the accepting physician wasn’t sure if he could accept my patient to the med/surg floor at first because there were no ICU beds available there. My patient was close to needing escalation to an ICU bed. The other doctor working with me had to transfer a patient to Timpanogos hospital which is our “competitor” hospital which we have only done previously for very rare unique circumstances. Our other option was to transfer the patient to St. George “Dixie” hospital.
Most of the patients that we are seeing in the ER do not have COVID-19 but a lot do. This illness is not a hoax. If you have not seen its adverse effects on someone personally yet, you will. One of our co-workers that also works as a paramedic and close to retirement is hospitalized now. His doctors are preparing the family as he likely is not going to survive. My patient last night was a previously very healthy 42 year old male that works as a contractor. He was not obese and didn’t have any significant comorbidities. He was swabbed for COVID-19 when I saw him 2 days ago for milder symptoms. It came back negative. Yesterday, he returned looking much worse with low oxygen levels and shortness of breath crying in agony from the other symptoms of body aches, headache, vomiting, and diarrhea. I obtained a CT scan of his lungs and it showed the typical appearance of COVID-19 with the scattered patchiness throughout his whole lungs despite the negative test. Thankfully the illness does not make everyone this ill.
Recently our ER has had longer wait times that are not typical at all for this time of year. Yesterday the ER was full to capacity from 10 am to 1 am. The nurses and other staff members were overwhelmed. That is not a good time to be a patient. The quality of care is not the same despite all we can do.
I know that masks decrease the risk of infection. There has not been any staff that I am aware of that has become sick from contact with a patient in our ER since wearing regular masks for every patient and N-95 masks for known or suspected cases. I am so frustrated to see people blatantly ignore the recommendations to wear masks in public. I respect many of you in the neighborhood for who you are and what you do. I know there are some of you who think a lot of this pandemic is a hoax or not as severe as many in the medical community portray it to be. I do not want to make enemies in trying to correct misinformation. Nor do I have the time to compete with the amount of crazy ideas that come up in trying to downplay the seriousness of this pandemic. There is no valid excuse to not wear a mask in public to protect yourself and others. To do otherwise is selfish and irresponsible. I will refrain to use other words that accurately describe how uninformed and incorrect that belief is.
I hope you do not feel that what I am writing is for political reasons. To be transparent I like President Trump but strongly disagree with his attitude towards this pandemic. I do not want to shut down the country again. I want our kids to be able to go to school and to go trick-or-treating. I do not want to go to work and not have resources or room to treat people. Please try to do something more to help us decrease the spread of this virus.
Dr. J. Darin Willardson