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Get in the boat: Please, do what you can to get us all to the pandemic shore

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A colleague reminded me of the Parable of the Drowning Man this month. There are several versions of the story, but basically the story goes that a man is drowning in the sea. A boat comes by with a sailor who offers to take the drowning man back to shore, and the drowning man declines the ride. The drowning man, well, drowns and dies. When he gets to the afterlife, he asks God why God let him drown. And God replies, “What do you mean, why did I let you drown? I sent you a boat, and you refused to get on it.”

Wherever you are in the world, you may or may not feel like you’re drowning in this pandemic. But I think it’s safe to say that many healthcare workers feel like they’re drowning. A doctor in Louisiana, Dr. Catherine O’Neal, calls it “the darkest days of the pandemic” in a powerful statement. An ICU nurse in Houston, Jennifer Steenberg, isn’t sure how much longer she can hang on.

Across the world, people are suffering with COVID-19, with varying resources available to them. In our country, this virus has become a political issue, which it should not be. It is a virus. And taking care of each other should be, simply, what we do as humans. I get and respect that everyone has a different perspective. I can only speak from my own perspective, and that is the perspective of a healthcare worker.

In Texas, the governor issued an executive order saying that schools could not require masks after June 4. In my school district, the school year ended on June 11. So there was an extra week in which masks were not required at the school.

A teacher told me that of her 20 students, 18 of them still came to school in masks that week. When they got to the classroom, the other two students wanted to wear a mask, too. Kids have worn masks in pediatric offices all year without complaint. I have had very young children look at me over their masks and tell me they are wearing a mask to protect others. And that they don’t mind doing so.

It is a personal choice if you want to take the COVID vaccine. I get that. But if you are even considering getting the COVID vaccine, now is the time. Healthcare workers in hotspots all over the country are speaking out about people wishing they had gotten it right before they are intubated. And about children, too young to be vaccinated, who are very sick.

There is the pandemic of COVID, and a corresponding pandemic of mental health concerns related to the pandemic. We are all sick and tired of thinking about COVID-19. Parents, brimming with anxiety, are afraid to send their kids back to school for fear they’ll get sick. They are afraid not to send them back to school for fear the child’s development or mental health will suffer.

I am not working in the Emergency Center or the ICU, but I can tell you that healthcare workers everywhere are exhausted. Tears-in-the-eyes exhausted. Leaving-their-careers exhausted. They are usually not able to work from home. They are sometimes not able to stop for a meal or a water break because they’re taking care of others for hours on end. They are working extra shifts when they would rather be with their own family.

The same nurse you see crying with exhaustion on social media would step up to your bedside and give you oxygen if you needed it.

The colleague who reminded me of the Parable of the Drowning Man has different political views than mine. But we both agree there is a rescue boat for this pandemic. The boat has vaccinations in it, if you are eligible. The boat has masks in it, to be worn until this surge passes. And the boat has sails made up of common sense, social distancing, staying home when you’re sick, and doing the right thing.

If you could see what we see and hear what we hear, you would get in the boat. For the sake of those you love and all of our children, please take care of each other. For the sake of healthcare and other essential workers, please get in the damn boat.

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