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The Year the Earth Stood Still … & How Our Faith and Courage Will Overcome Fear
Life will be different now. We all know that.
I sit here alone in a deserted office. An office just a very short time ago filled every workday with laughter, ringing phones, busy staff, and happy patients. It’s eerily quiet now. Looking out the window at the grey sky, a late March snow falls softly over an empty parking lot.
As America and the rest of the world closes down, and more than one-half of our citizens stay home, there seems to be panic everywhere. The daily uncertainty breeds anxiety and fear as newscasts, every minute of every day, flash unendingly grim statistics. We are at war, at war with an invisible and faceless enemy, smaller than one-millionth of a meter, an enemy without a face or a heartbeat, without feelings or thoughts, driven only by the hardwired biologic necessity to find a host and reproduce. This virus doesn’t care what we think.
Yes, it’s easy to be intimidated. Easy to give in to fear and anxiety and panic. A crisis of this magnitude can bring out the worst in people, hoarding and fighting over toilet paper and supplies, panic buying guns and ammunition in the misguided hysteria of an impending apocalypse. Fear would have you lose hope and believe that the sky is falling.
In addition to the public health care concerns, there also looms the economic fears of a world shut down and standing still. I am not only a physician but also a small business owner. Our medical practice has long term employees, staff that I care deeply about, incredibly dedicated professionals that depend on this job to support their families. Yes, it’s intimidating.
So how do we face such uncertainty? Perhaps this once in a lifetime crisis also provides us with a once in a lifetime opportunity. An opportunity to discover or rediscover something deeper about ourselves, and what really matters. Hardship and fear may, unfortunately, bring out the worst in some of us, but it also can unleash and reveal what’s special and best within the human spirit. We are, after all, survivors.
Even though our lives may never be quite the same again, I believe that the challenges of this time will create opportunities. A unique opportunity for self-discovery, to make ourselves stronger and more resilient in many ways. So, what can we learn and how might we benefit from this crisis? Just a few possibilities to consider:
- A new urgency and motivation to improve our overall health – daily statistics clearly reveal that in addition to the elderly, those of us with poor health are most at risk for more dangerous infections and outcomes from the coronavirus. Particularly at risk are smokers and those with underlying respiratory compromise (COPD), those with obesity and related diabetes or heart disease and generally poor health. This increased risk is also true for influenza virus which according to the CDC, this season alone in the U.S. has infected over 38 million Americans, created more than 400,000 hospitalizations, and resulted in over 23,000 deaths, considerably more impact so far than the coronavirus. One wonders why these flu statistics are not flashed across our TV screens daily as are the COVID-19 numbers? For our families, our friends, ourselves, do we need a more compelling reason to get off the couch and start moving more and eating right? Now that most of us have more time away from work is the perfect opportunity to make a real change. Why not take this opportunity and give up just 30 minutes of phone, screen and cable news time every day to exercise and, improve your health in order to protect yourself and your family? That would be life-changing and you now have that choice.
- Realizing and recognizing our ‘real’ heroes – the healthcare professionals and workers on the front lines, our doctors, nurses, military, police and first-responders, volunteers, facing high-risk situations, working overtime and long hours…..they deserve our thanks and praise. They are the real heroes.
- A return to and a new respect for science – it is clear that only medical research and science can discover and provide the medications, vaccines, and technology that can potentially reduce suffering and save countless lives from new and highly evolved pathogens like the coronavirus. Lack of education, religious fanaticism and emotionally driven groups such as the anti-vaccination movement, lacking any scientific credibility, has allowed diseases like measles back into society after near extinction by ignoring real science and using emotion to influence the vulnerable way from what the data and research have proven. The COVID-19 and the influenza viruses have revealed the need for real science and the importance of vaccines and clinically proven therapies which is now painfully evident.
- The lifesaving importance of soap and water – although we have always been told about the importance of handwashing, large studies have surprisingly revealed that more than a third of us do not wash our hands after using a public restroom. Even more concerning is that nearly 80% of those people who do stop to wash did not use soap or wash long enough to significantly reduce risk. Even now in 2020, it has remained a challenge to convince people of this critical need. As we all hopefully know now, PROPER HAND WASHING IS THE ONE MOST EFFECTIVE MEASURE AGAINST GETTING OR SPREADING COVID-19 VIRUS AS WELL AS INFLUENZA. The virus has a lipid or fat cell wall that is destroyed by soap and warm water hand washing for at least 20 seconds … yes, it makes a REAL difference. Unclean hands have been spreading infections for hundreds of years … let’s stop this now.
- Experiencing some of the best of our humanness … volunteerism – We have heard and will hear many heartwarming stories of those volunteering and facing risks to help others, delivering food and aid to the elderly, donating their time at assisted living centers and health care facilities. Volunteers are inspiring. That is the best of who we are.
- Our lives and the ’new normal’ – after we move beyond this pandemic, it is likely that some things may never be the same. Globalization will return but the way we work, worship, travel and socialize will surely be impacted. Our traditions will survive but we must learn from this.
- Recognizing the need for social and outside ‘connection’ – nothing like a few weeks of social isolation or quarantine to remind us that we humans really are social creatures and need ‘connection’ and social interaction to emotionally thrive. Loneliness is a health hazard, too.
The author, Lydia Denworth, has studied and written about the benefits and the evolution, biology and extraordinary power of one of life’s fundamental bonds…friendship. Nearly 30% of older adults live alone. A 2018 U.S. Health report reveals evidence that social isolation and loneliness can lead to multiple health problems. Be sure to reach out, digitally or by phone, to family, friends, and neighbors and especially to the elderly and those living alone. Social distancing is necessary and critical right now but the social isolation that many faces are also very harmful and dangerous. I think I may start to look forward to resuming our weekly work meetings!
- A new sense of national unity – in the partisan and politically divisive times of the past few years, this pandemic crisis has reminded many of us that ultimately, we are not democrats or republicans, not conservatives or liberals, but one nation. We do better when we take care of each other, despite our differences … and that is where we are at our best.
- Increased awareness and appreciation for our spirituality – no matter what you believe in, crisis and hardship have a powerful way of reminding us of the importance of faith … and a higher power … and in believing in something bigger than ourselves. This is that time.
- A return to humility and gratitude – Just a few short weeks ago, unemployment was at new lows, the stock market at record highs. When things are going well, isn’t it so easy to take our health, our families and friends, our jobs and this wonderful life for granted? In an instant, an invisible enemy has quickly and brutally reminded us of the stark reality that life, health, and happiness are precious privileges and can be fragile and are not guaranteed. But out of the hardship can arise a newfound appreciation and gratitude for what we have often overlooked and forgotten. Humility is sometimes a painful and enduring lesson.
Yes, in some ways life will be different now. We, unfortunately, do not have a choice about the global impact of the COVID-19 virus and the inevitable health and economic impact it will bring. But we do have a choice in how we respond as individuals and as a nation moving forward. Although it’s understandable how these events outside of our control can leave us feeling helpless and intimidated, building an informed but calm mind and a healthier body is something we certainly do have a choice about and is most likely our best defense and protection not only in these uncertain times but in any time.
If we make our choice courage and faith, if we choose compassion and kindness, we can learn and benefit from this. The short-term health and economic pain will create an opportunity for the longer-term benefits of strength and resilience to adversity. As a nation, we have been here before, and we can rise above and handle it. We can do this because that is who we are in America. We do not have to be intimidated, controlled by fear and panic and fight over toilet paper or hoard guns. Fear is the enemy, not our neighbor.
Dr. Koltz, myself and all of us at EVOLV would like to thank you for your support, your trust and especially for believing in us during these most difficult times. Even though some parts of our lives may change moving forward, our mission at EVOLV will always be the same: “a dedication and passion to improve the overall health, happiness, and quality of life for our patients.“
With faith and courage, we will get through this together.
If interested in learning about a different perspective on how to handle the COVID-19 virus please click on the link below. It is an article written by Thomas L. Friedman, a three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author and one of the most compelling views on this pandemic that I’ve seen.
We wish all of you and your families good health, safety and happiness … and most of all … PEACE.
Spring is coming, the snow will be gone and the sun will shine again … there are better days ahead.