So here’s my thoughts on the Ebola situation in Dallas and in West Africa–and I hope you’ll take the time at least to view the Methodist video down below to hear West Africans talk about the horrific situation they face . . .
It’s hard to imagine the real, utter suffering–not to mention the fear–that’s widespread in three countries whipped down by Ebola in West Africa. The suffering escalates by the day.
In the U.S., meanwhile, there has been, as sad as it was, one death, and two cases in which two nurses are responding well to the best medical care in the world.
So the impact in America has been bad, but minimal in the big scheme of things.
To minimize it for perspective is not to diminish the grief surrounding the one death and the two cases of severe illness. Nor am I suggesting that we in America shouldn’t be concerned and well informed about the deadly virus. There’s a lot of solid, educational information being put out by the media and others. My friend and former Houston Chronicle colleague Dianna Hunt and her colleagues at the Dallas Morning News, for example, have done some excellent, responsible reporting on Ebola in their own back yard in Big D. (For newcomers to the blog here, I was in newspaper journalism far more years than I was in hospital and hospice ministry.)
But there’s sure been too much of the other kind of reportage in the general media on one death in one hospital–a hospital with which I’m very familiar. Doctors and caregivers at Presbyterian Hospital (“Presby,” as the locals in Big D have always known it) saved my brother’s life when he suffered a bad heart attack.
In addition, I considered doing chaplaincy training at Presby in Dallas years ago, having interviewed with the hospital’s chaplain supervisors and being offered a residency with them. I opted instead to train with the Methodist Health Care System, another major, Dallas hospital. I also worked for five full years on a 3 pm to midnight shift at one of the city’s Baptist hospitals (Baylor) in the ER and ICU units.
So the Ebola situation hit close to home, since Dallas was my home for much of my life and hospitals were my pastoral “churches outside the church walls” for a number of years.
The Dallas situation also feels personal in the “struck-close-to-home” way simply because I have such an affinity with doctors, nurses and the many, many other caregivers everywhere who go about the high-stress, often heroic business of saving lives and healing the sick, day in and day out. I spent enough years as a chaplain assigned to emergency rooms and intensive care units, working side by side with those heroic caregivers as they worked ridiculous hours doing the most demanding work imaginable, to marvel at their tireless dedication.
Far be it for me to defend Presby Hospital in Dallas, Texas, for any mishandling of its now infamous Ebola cases. But I will say I’d still feel plenty confident receiving critical care there today or any time.
What seems to be overlooked in all the sensationalized media coverage, political posturing, finger-pointing and general fear-mongering in the U.S. is that three survivors of Ebola have survived and are well because of the treatment they received in American hospitals. My guess is–and my hope is–that Ebola in my country is not going to break out in any massive, widespread way before it passes. Nor will it spread much beyond the three countries in West Africa, excepting some isolated cases here and there in advanced, Western countries.
Maybe that’s wishful thinking, but I’m convinced there’s reason for hope that it’s contained and will remained contained to a relative few, isolated cases.
The people in three countries in West Africa, meanwhile–where Methodists “on the ground there” report a mood of despair and suffering because of issues like hunger as well as the disease–need more of our awareness, thoughts and prayers–and donations too.
So check out the video and please consider joining me in a donation to UMCOR, or some other credible aid source of your choice, to alleviate the suffering of brothers and sisters in West Africa.