Learning From The Coronavirus
I did not pay much attention to the news about the Coronavirus until I heard someone I knew had been hospitalized and was fighting for his life. It was a relative I hadn’t seen in many years, since well before his grandparents had died. His grandmother was my mother’s cousin, and I stayed with them in my 20s when I visited.
But he was very important to me at that point in my life, and we share great memories. When my mom called me and told me the news, it stopped me in my tracks. It made all this talk matter.
He had not been traveling. He had not had contact with anyone diagnosed with the virus. They had first told him it was a lung infection and not the Coronavirus. But still, here he was. Now diagnosed with it and in such critical condition, they could not airlift him to another hospital that may be able to provide better care.
It got me reading — the unknown of why this has happened is one of the scary things. You can be like Patient Number 31 in Seoul, Korea. She supposedly infected thousands by carrying on her normal life. She went to work, to lunch, to church. Yes, she had been tested but left the hospital to get back to her life. She felt fine.
How often do we find ourselves sitting next to a co-worker who is sick with a stomach virus but not wanting to burn a sick day? Hearing someone took their child to daycare who has been up all night vomiting? Having lunch with a friend who has allergies — or is it a bad cold? They don’t seem concerned, so it appears we are a bit hysterical if we cause a fuss. What has happened to us that we only look at whether we feel well enough to get out, and not about those others whose health we compromise when we do it?
I’m about as far as you can get from being a germaphobe. I volunteered as a clinic coordinator at a free clinic for a while and learned not to react when people were coughing or sneezing directly in my face. I never got sick, though I could have. I learned that people aren’t very good at trying to protect others from what ails them.
I gave platelets yesterday, something I do regularly. They had started a new procedure where they greeted you at the door with a bottle of hand sanitizer and a thermometer. I opted to wash my hands in the bathroom that was right next to the sanitizer station, and that alone got me some looks as someone who was not a rules follower. I’m not a hand sanitizer fan and know that washing my hands is a better choice anyway. My temperature was fine. Other procedures continued as usual.
But as I gave, I noticed a few other things. They were not washing down the chairs between donors, and they are still just putting blankets back into the warmer, using them for multiple people. Mine smelled like smoke and when I mentioned it to the technician she frowned and said “Oh, it must have been used by a smoker before you.” Yep, just my point. Ick. No, she didn’t get it.
The chances are that with the checks they do on people before donations, the other donors are healthy, but what if they are carrying a virus or different sort of infectious disease and are asymptomatic? My niece wipes down chairs and massage tables with hospital-grade products after patrons leave her salon. Shouldn’t people who are trained in health care be as vigilant?
I am one of those people who gets a bit skeeved out about the cleanliness of hospital rooms. Not that I believe they don’t try and do what they believe to be a good job, but how can you clean them enough? How about air vents and curtains and things of that sort? I’ve never been hospitalized, though they have suggested it to me on a couple of occasions. I will go through a lot to avoid it happening. I believe they pay more attention to cleanliness than places like hotel rooms. We’re all heard and experienced the horror stories with them. Then you think about airplanes and such, and it can drive a person crazy.
As I said, I’m not a germaphobe. I don’t like hand sanitizers because I believe they give us a false sense of security and often rob us of the immunity we are trying to protect. I don’t think all chemicals are clean and safe and know they also do things like dry out my skin. It wasn’t long ago that the US Food and Drug Administration banned some of the commonly used active ingredients from being used.
I hope that we will control the spreading of the Coronavirus, but that it will get discussions going to keep us smarter about being well. We don’t need to live in isolation in pristine environments. Building up an immunity to some germs and bacteria is not only good for us but advisable.
But some more straight talk and common sense about protecting the people around us is important. Yes, I’m just a layperson, but like most of us, I notice things. Maybe I need to talk about it more. Perhaps I need to learn more. Maybe that means I shouldn’t be so reticent to ask questions. Perhaps I need to be a bit more phobic about germs. And maybe I need to tell you to go home when you are sick and stop spreading your germs to the rest of us.
I’m not the only one in the world who matters. Neither are you.
Kim McKinney loves a good story and loves the people in her life, past and present. She believes we need to talk about the things going on in the world and reach smart solutions to the problems together. Writing about them is a start. And therapy.