Breathe Out Fear

Mar 30, 2020

If you are one of the millions of Americans working from home with your favorite 24-hour news channel droning on in the background, how is that going for you? I found my stress level increased with each press conference. Once I opted out of a steady diet of news, I found my level of fear and frustration dramatically decreased. I then started to think about places of impact which are not front and center on television, like our not-for-profit organizations and healthcare centers.

Because right now, “Fear is huge.” With the political back and forth, the pundits interviewing “experts” all day, and non-stop “Breaking Pandemic News,” of course we are afraid. How can we begin to think about any new normal, when all we hear is political rhetoric? Spoiler alert – the media is focused on ratings.

Americans are at our best when we are in crisis. We are at our best when NICU nurses sleep away from their families to protect our tiniest Americans. We are at our best when companies like My Pillow shut operations and begin to sew facemasks, or when Tito’s Vodka begins to produce hand sanitizer. We did that on our own, not because someone gave us an order. Because we are Americans.

We stop and breathe. We heed the call and we step up and out to help.

Maybe we need to save the cruise industry? Maybe we need to save the airlines? Maybe the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts should get millions? But, what about not-for-profit hospitals, Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), community health centers (CHCs), and our network of charities who support and perform much needed research for disease and disability.  

While the Kennedy Center is a lovely place, my heart knows what $15M would do for the FQHCs on Skid Row in LA or in Harlem in NYC, who serve the disenfranchised, the ones so easily forgotten. The populations, who if they get the virus, are not important enough to test. 

Our healthcare system struggled before COVID-19, we had a physician shortage before COVID-19, and to no surprise, this is not helping. Elective surgeries and higher margin patients are cancelled as hospitals fill with virus patients. Without a Medicare inpatient diagnosis-related group for COVID-19, how do hospitals get reimbursed and when? How do our hospitals pay to cover the patients admitted who require resource-intensive ICU treatment?  

As instructed, people are staying home, afraid to get insulin, chronic care measures, or well child vaccinations at their CHC. Cash is not pouring into our healthcare facilities, yet they continue to deliver care. They pay the heroic care providers who come in day after day, they buy the masks and ventilators, and still Congress argues!

Americans, it’s time to step up for community, rural, and not-for-profit facilities and organizations. Their populations are the least connected and have the smallest voice. They need our help and support. It’s time to step up for the not-for-profit organizations like March of Dimes (MOD) who work for the safety of our moms and babies and fund critical research. MOD cancelled all their fundraisers and is working with their physicians and scientists to provide hospitals with protocols for moms delivering babies during this time. They are creating assistance for moms with postpartum depression, isolated at home with no family reinforcements, as grandparents stay sequestered.

This virus is hitting in places that don’t make the news headlines. Sure, help the cruise lines and airlines, they have a loud voice in Washington, but what about our community healthcare system, what about our not-for-profits? 

One of my co-workers told his young son that we are living a historic event that will be taught for generations. How will we be remembered? Do we rise and adapt? Do we sacrifice ourselves for others? Do we step up and make sure that our network of healthcare centers and not-for-profit charities survive? Or do we make sure we can still cruise to Mexico? 

If we stop and breathe and take a moment to consider that the new normal is coming, if we stop making panic decisions, like hoarding toilet paper, we will choose to save the things that really matter. We will reach outside ourselves to make sure that our critical system of healthcare and not-for-profits survive. We will realize that our new normal desperately needs them and needs them now. 

We are Americans! Let’s not forget…we are Americans.