Wash your hands regularly.
Stay 6 feet away from each other.
Avoid crowds of 10 or more people.
On June 28, 2010, doctors were puzzled about why my lungs were starting to shut down. For about a week, I was wearing one of those clear masks with oxygen flowing into my nose. That wasn’t working anymore. They escalated my treatment to the next level. A pulmonologist placed Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP) headgear over my head, nose, and mouth. I felt claustrophobic. The sound of air rushing into my lungs was deafening.
The BiPAP strategy only lasted about 24 hours. My lungs were suffocating, desperate for oxygen. Over the course of 10 days, the critical care team had ruled out every possible diagnosis for the breakdown in my breathing. They needed to buy more time to figure out what was causing the lungs to fail. Doctors decided to intubate, sedate, and paralyze me.
Intubation is a process that includes placing a tube into the patient’s mouth and down the throat to send oxygen directly into the lungs. Surgeons use this procedure to ensure that the patient is breathing during surgery. It’s very uncomfortable, so being in deep sleep is necessary. To make sure my body was completely still, paralytic medicine was added to the cocktail that flowed from IV bags into my bloodstream.
When the doctors explained to me why they recommended taking these extreme measures, I was scared, anxious, and on the verge of panic. After Sandra and I peppered them with a barrage of questions, I knew that it was the right thing to do. Doctors ultimately treated me for Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome. The summer of 2010 was a wily and wooly ride to be sure, especially for my family. It all worked out. God’s will and a talented healthcare team saved the day.
I write often about the heart attack in 2010 and how it changed my life and worldview in a spiritual and practical way. I haven’t shared as much about the lung failure episode. It was an awful time for my family. Recovering after over 100 days in the hospital (including 6 weeks in the ICU) was the most difficult time in my life. No one who experienced that time wants to relive it. The memories are still fresh and vivid in our minds.
Nevertheless, I’ve been looking back on that chapter of my story for the past few days with hope. Reliving the summer of 2010 reminds me of how a community can overcome challenges with the power of faith and prudent action. Those who occupied the waiting room inspired many others to virtually join them in prayer. Heeding doctors’ advice, Sandra made wise decisions about my care.
Reflecting on that time has given me hope that working together we can conquer Coronavirus in the same way.
St. Paul the Apostle teaches us that God says, “My grace is sufficient, my power is made perfect in weakness.” God is telling us not to stress out trying to control what we can’t, especially during troubling times. We can’t control that the virus exists. We can’t control how other people react. We can’t control the false information that’s spreading on social media just as fast as the virus.
Having faith is letting go of what we can’t control and focusing on what is within our power. Grace in the Biblical sense relates to the gifts God provides to each of us. He gave us the power to think and analyze. Let’s use that gift. Despite the seemingly hopeless news doctors shared with me and Sandra in 2010, we knew that we had no control over the fact that I couldn’t breathe. Using the gifts of thought and analysis, we put our faith in the doctors’ advice.
Today, as a community, we are facing what appears to be a desperate health crisis. Santa Clara County has directed its residents to stay home for 3 weeks, except to access essential needs like food and medical care. Now is the time to use common sense to make educated decisions based on recommendations from experts.
County public health leaders took unprecedented action to combat the Coronavirus for the same reason doctors made extreme efforts to fight my lung failure 2010. They need to buy time to figure out exactly what kind of threat the virus poses. Time will give officials the ability to determine how many people are infected and allocate resources to hospitals where they’re needed.
Washing hands frequently, staying 6 feet away from others, and avoiding crowds is smart advice. We tend to panic and lose sight of those three simple directives. Going to the store daily to stock up on items we already have and rushing to the emergency room at the slightest sniffle is contrary to guidance from health professionals. Standing in line next to others doing the same is even more dangerous. Don’t panic. Follow advice. Be smart.
Sandra, the girls, our extended family and friends, and I learned so much about managing crises in 2010. Perhaps the most important lessons were the power of faith and thoughtful decision-making. Not only did faith and wisdom carry us through that horrific summer, but they were also the cornerstones of getting through another health scare 8 years later.
As days of uncertainty about the Coronavirus wear on, my family has decided to hunker down with faith and intelligent thinking. This plan has worked for us time and time again. I highly recommend that everyone try it out for the next few weeks. In God’s time, this crisis too shall pass. We got this!