Standing in harm’s way

Story by Johnny Sain

Rumors of a new pandemic — a novel disease for which we humans had little to no defense — swirled across the news cycles only a month or so into the new year. And then the rumors became truth.

Predictions were all over the board, as is to be expected as new information came to light nearly every hour, but healthcare leaders settled onto some basic information for stalling the spread — practice social distancing and wash your hands.

So far, we’ve not hit the catastrophic numbers predicted in worst-case scenarios, and there’s little doubt that the simple actions employed by so many people is the reason. But even with this minor victory, there’s no cause for celebration. The truth of the matter, is that we simply don’t know what will happen.

This great unknown is precisely the reason for caution and preparedness. It’s what led Dr. Nathan Henderson to form the Pope County Covid-19 Triage Unit.

As writer Hannah Butler and I discussed this story and how we would tell it, we focused on shining the light of humanity on the volunteers running the Triage. Mostly we did it so that readers would see the faces behind the face shields and recognize them as our neighbors. There are no high-powered bureaucrats behind the Triage. It was one local doctor’s idea and his will to act that made it happen.

There is no hidden “agenda” involving any depth of government or political party. These are just healthcare professionals doing their job — actually going beyond their job — for us. They’re working long hours in rough conditions and enduring far too much backlash from the very public who they are desperately trying to protect.

We also wanted readers to understand that they are doing all of this while battling their own fears of contracting the disease themselves. And, even worse, passing the disease to someone without a healthy immune system. Someone who could be admitted to the hospital, to ICU, ventilated, or could even die.

These are the people who are putting aside their own concerns and bravely, voluntarily, standing in harm’s way for all of us.

I am hesitant to use the word “hero.” It’s been slapped onto so many acts and people that the very meaning has been watered down to the point of near nothing. But I can’t find a better word for professionals striving to do more than their jobs require for the safety of their community.​