Think About It: On hold …

I’ve never been very good at being on hold. I generally pace and wonder when the person on the other end of the line is going to get to me. I am most comforted by the systems that tell me what place I am in the queue or how long I can expect to wait.

I’m not so comforted by the calls that have periodic messages telling me my call is important; I don’t believe the sweet voice. I like the certainty that someone knows I am waiting.

I, along with everyone in the country and most other countries, are on the longest hold we’ve ever been on and with the luck of virus cycles to come, we will ever be on. This hold has so much more at stake than boredom and impatience, although, most of us do and will experience much of each as we adjust to being at home alone or with family.

Our very health and that of those we love is our first concern. Most of us follow the direction to stay at home except for the most essential work and trips for provisions. We wash our hands, as a friend put it, like Lady Macbeth without the guilt. We stopped touching our faces. We carry hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes to shop. We practice social distancing and are grateful to the grocery, pharmacy and provision stores that plan for our safety.

We comply or most of us do.

We stay on hold for information and hope.

We stay on hold and wonder about the future.

If we get COVID-19 … What then?

My husband and I had the “what if” conversation. Besides inspiring us to be ever more vigilant, we could imagine, even feel the pain of what others are experiencing. What could be worse than seeing the person you love being taken away to an uncertain fate and you are left alone?

Compounding the nightmarish image is the confusion present about whether you or your loved would receive the necessary care. Physicians and other health care providers don’t expect to have to choose who will get life-saving ventilator care. Yet we hear there will not be enough ventilators.

Instead and for weeks, we hear governors and mayors in states and cities in the throes of rapidly spreading COVID-19 trying to purchase more ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE) — the new acronym we will never forget — to be prepared for the apex of the illness.

We hear the federal government’s reluctance to centralize the purchase and implement dynamic deployment of equipment from areas of controlled outbreaks to areas of pending Covid-19 apexes.

Powerful state leaders are putting out red alerts so why should we not be worried about ICU care teams doing life-saving work at great risk to themselves. Why should we not be worried for all those who die alone and, in some cases, whose ICU care team could have saved them.

Vigilant handwashing husband and I know that our age puts us at the end of the queue if life-saving care becomes a choice between younger and older persons. We ask ourselves a powerful question – is it worth dying alone?

Let’s all hope and pray that no one will have to answer that question because we are beginning to tap into our own strength to meet the virus head on.

How could this change us?

I don’t have a doubt that we will change in several ways as a result of this strangest hiatus in our usual life. I’m not sure what the changes will be but believe they will revolve around the reorganization of our habits and our forced contemplation of values.

We are most fortunate to have the technological capability to stay in touch and with moving pictures no less. I heard a business leader predict that work from home would prove to be more productive in some cases and some work will be shifted home.

If enough of work while home happens, lunch cafes will continue catering and delivery. Traffic may well increase as delivery trucks, vans and Uber delivery cars flood the roads replacing all the former commuters.

We also will learn how much we value person to person social connection. And how much we value touch inspired by love and compassion. We may learn that fist bumps are better than handshakes and handwashing is important for all kinds of infection control.

We may well learn we get better results if we work together for the same goal.

How will this change our country?

The discussion on balancing the goals of keeping people and our economy healthy is important. In our best of times, we seem to pit one against the other in political characterizations. Universal access to health care is seen as socialism and a tax break for corporations is seen as benefiting the top 1 percent.

If ever an opportunity laid itself before us to dialogue and set national definition and goals for each, it is now. So far, Covid-19 doesn’t seem to be bringing us together politically, but that could change. Several businesses have stepped up recently to use their facilities and capacity to support the health care teams with necessary equipment. That’s working together for the same goal.

Let’s hope we are just in time.

I think we are because we are an innovative and intellectually rich country. I have tremendous faith in scientists who are working 24/7 to find treatments and vaccines.

The Coronavirus will invade every corner of our country and soon we will know where and how the virus is spreading. That knowledge will help all the heroine and hero individuals and businesses who are stepping in and up. We will know if we have done enough, soon enough.

And those of us on hold will be answered with information and hope.

Bertha Cooper, featured columnist in the Sequim Gazette, spent her career years in health care administration, program development and consultation. Cooper’s book “Women, We’re Only Old Once” is due out this summer. Cooper and her husband have lived in Sequim over 20 years. Reach her at columnists@sequimgazette.com.

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