Somewhere in the middle of these years (early 2000’s), every hospital staff person who entered a patient’s room began donning gowns, gloves, and masks – a new set for every room. This was not so that they wouldn’t catch what the patient had, but to keep bugs away from their fragile lungs just in case they were carrying something.
Our Great Strides fundraising walk used to be a fair-like festival of food, rides, games, swims, and hikes. It was summer’s celebratory highlight to get so many CF families and friends, plus doctors and nurses all together -- people walking the same walk. Then the doctors told us about the new, six feet apart rule in order to keep CF people from sharing bugs, so organizers handed out matching T-shirts to CFers, to identify from whom to stay six feet away, which put a damper on the day.
While we reviled every new restriction and were dismayed at the social distancing and considered taking our chances and defying the new rules, we never thought the doctors and scientists lied. We understood that they were smart, driven, humanitarian scientists working to understand, solve, and save lives. Their inquiry, experiments, research, and recommendations (Remember learning about the scientific method in 6th grade science class?) are lifesaving. They published their findings, and hospital authorities on whose shoulders rest the heavy weight of people’s health responded by amending rules. And they were right. The median life expectancy for people with CF has doubled in these past 27 years.
The experimental drugs are exciting. For decades, I have signed up the children for studies, hoping they would be in the drug group instead of the placebo group. Now they answer for themselves, and they’ve always signed their names to participate. They are both taking brand new formulations: our younger child just beginning a drug that her older brother guinea-pigged several years ago! They are meticulously monitored so if their bodies react weirdly, the doctors run tests to ascertain the reason. I absolutely trust the procedure from petri dish to rodents to primates to humans.
The world at large has been living with Corona virus for less than two years, but we have lived the respiratory virus story for close to thirty years. Scientists figure stuff out, they publish information (which sometimes backtracks on previous stuff), and civil authorities make the best decisions they can for public health, like no smoking indoors, mandatory seatbelts, and speed limits, to name a few. Masks and social distancing and protecting other people’s lungs have been a part of our lives for a long time. Of course they work. When people keep their breath and body to themselves in public places with scores of people, the airborne viral load lessens. Of course our immune systems are amazing; smart scientists figured out how it operates and now we can work with it by vaccinations.
We are aggrieved not so much over viruses or public mitigation methods but over the assumption that we are fearful, uninformed sheep. Because along with a decent understanding of math, medicine, civics, and Christianity; we have actual -- not internet -- doctors who have earned our trust over decades of care and whose advice we wisely follow. If a manager mandates masking to shop in his store, we can handle 30 minutes; it’s not un-American. If our pastor says to mask for services with plenty of people, we can handle an hour; it’s not sin. We are pleased to be vaccinated and be part of herd immunity so this virus – or any virus or bacteria – can’t make inroads into our community. Now the restrictions are lifting as the vaccinations are available and our year of gentle masking is over. Our priest explained that we may find out over the months and years to come that it did no good; but in the meantime, this is how we're handling it.
It was not that hard, it blessed others, and we followed Christ’s admonition to be good neighbors and our brothers' keepers.