Echo Chambers: The Way I See It

:::Edit: my husband says his shoulders were slumped because he was heading in to night shift more than the dread of what would await him. It’s when he comes home that his shoulders slump from what the shift was like. I thought I should clarify that. He isn’t discouraged to the point of quitting. But he is tired. :::

Tonight my husband went to work, a work he loves, but I saw the slump in his shoulders that indicated his dread for what he would find when he gets to the intensive care unit. All this summer we kept hoping that this new variant would pass over us and our area would be spared, but things are as bad as they were in the thick of the pandemic last year.

When he got back after four long shifts last week, I could tell he was wrung out, physically and emotionally. I asked him how it is going. He is the one who thrives on the adrenaline of life-saving medicine, who enjoys the challenges of critically ill patients, and who has trained tirelessly for his work. “It is awful,” he said. “This week has totally whooped my butt. There is no time to eat, and hardly time to run to the bathroom. Today there were twenty-seven people stacked in the ER, waiting for beds. One woman waited for three days in another ER before being transported to the small-town hospital. And the patients in the ICU are younger, and they are falling apart for no obvious reason, with no other health issues at all.”

Gabe doesn’t talk much about his work, and up until recently he has remained charitable about the spreading of fear and misinformation online. For a while it seemed that mainstream media was whipping the subject into a frenzy, trying to get more mileage out of a very tired idea. The disagreements even seemed a little funny. I showed him a meme that said, “This Awful Vaccine is doing more harm than Covid ever did,” and he chuckled wryly at the obvious fact that there are not 630,000 vaccine deaths, nor are there any hospitals filling up with patients who have reactions, although of course, there are reactions. There always are reactions, just not nearly on the same scale as the disease. “It’s just how they see it,” he would say. “People should have a right to choose what they want to put into their bodies. It’s a basic tenet of medicine.”

The charity runs a little thin when the screaming from the sidelines gets louder. A lot of the people who need acute care are the same ones who have been booing the medical system for this entire long year. Right now the system is overwhelmed. There are not enough resources for the needs. Obviously this results in lapses in care, oversights, people falling through the cracks. It isn’t just the Covid patients; it’s the ruptured appendix and the stroke victims and the heart attacks too. Staff at hospitals are running, running, all day long. Normal care in an Intensive Care Unit is only two patients per nurse. When that number goes up to double the normal care load, things start to feel out of control quickly for their caregivers. Very, very few people come back to say thank-you, and unfortunately the ones in Gabe’s unit… they often die.

They die, despite the careful monitoring, the endless duties that are involved with total care, ensuring the patient is sedated enough that they will not pull out their lines, but not so sedated that they can’t wake up, the washing, the care for bedsores, checking kidney function, making sure their eyes don’t dry out, etc. etc. They die on the shifts of those nurses who saw the fear in their eyes because their worn-out lungs couldn’t maintain oxygen levels. And guess who has to remove the tubes and pull the plugs when that decision has been made that they will not be able to recover? Yes. It’s the ones who have been laboring day and night to help this patient pull through, who have been on the phone communicating with distraught family members, hoping against hope that this one makes a turn for the better. There are thousands and thousands of these stories of bereavement and loss falling through the cracks. Not the famous or important people, or the influencers, but the everyday hard-working ones whose families are devastated by their loss.

“After every shift, we think about what we missed, how we could have given better care, what went wrong,” he said quietly. “This is what haunts us. The worst is when someone who has no clue what it is like is sure that they could fix everything with the help of a few internet memes and some youtube research. As if they obviously know better than all the doctors and researchers who have spent their entire lives studying the human body, and they are baffled by this inscrutable virus. That is just enough to make me angry!” Friends, my husband has never been this frustrated with humanity in general. And he is only one of many nurses who are near breaking point from the tensions. “People tell me if I can’t handle the pressure, I should just quit and get another job,” he said, “but how would that help the situation?”

My heart is sore for these healthcare workers, and for the mistrust and confusion everywhere in our world. They aren’t asking to be lauded as heroes, but they would really appreciate being heard and respected for their sincere efforts to alleviate suffering and help people heal. And honestly, they would like if everybody at least considered the vaccine with an open mind, and if they decide to not get it, to at the very least do everything in their power to not spread the virus and it’s accompanying sensations.

Here’s a quote from an article that I feel articulates very kindly about how many doctors are feeling. “Many of the unvaccinated people I’ve talked with are hard-working, loving individuals struggling to catch a break in a life that hasn’t been fair. They’re unmoored and don’t know what to believe when truth itself has supply-chain problems and the health care system has been letting them down for years.”

I get it with the disillusionment that is felt for our healthcare system. I don’t really trust that the system has only my good in mind either. I don’t think science is a god that can save us. I do believe in respecting the gifts that our Creator has given men in developing their knowledge and honing skills to improve the lives of so many. If I end up getting Covid, I would do everything I could to try to heal at home. But if I need care beyond that, I will have to trust that the doctors care about my health and will do their best for me.

I also strongly believe that things like vaccinations should remain open to free choice, but I do not understand why that has to include reposting fear-mongering stories of dubious origin or news articles that are so heavy with agenda you can see the slant a mile off. And that goes for both sides of the debate! Why can we not ask God how to make our private decisions, and go on our way in faith? Why do we have to yell about it?

“We all have our own echo chambers, where what we already believe swirls around and that is what we hear,” my husband said. I had told him of feeling scalded by an online debate so nasty that if the people would have been Vikings, they would have been pulling hair and gouging out eyes.

I want to say, “We are better than this!” But the truth is, we are not. I know that I can come up with sarcastic zingers with the best of them, but I have asked Jesus to slap my hand before I write them in a comment thread. I am not joking one little bit. I like to be affirmed, that I am right, as does everybody else I know. Can we please just listen to each other’s hearts without vitriol? Please? Can we say, “I may be wrong, but this is the way I see it…” If the only debate we listen to is the narrative that echoes what is already swirling in our heads, we become more and more self-assured and more and more abrasive in our own defense.

I think about my friend Jeanie, whose dad passed away last year, and how clearly she saw it at his deathbed, “Love God; love people. That’s all that matters.” Hmm. Didn’t Jesus say something like that?

I cringe at all the suffering. I loathe Covid. I hate the divisions and strife. Maybe that is our real test, not so much the physical sickness. Maybe our real test is what we do despite the stresses in our very ordinary life, with our neighbors and the people in our house, and at the store or the post office or the mechanics shop. Maybe we are still being called to a very simple rule: do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with God.

Last week after reading that nasty comment thread I talked about, I felt sick in my soul, and I went out to my garden. I picked a half dozen ears of corn and walked over to my elderly neighbors to chat. I found out he can’t eat corn because he doesn’t have teeth, but he would be very happy for some tomatoes. He said he fell out of a tree this summer when he was trimming a branch, and had to have surgery on his shoulder. I said I would give him our phone numbers so that he can call the next time he needs to have a branch trimmed. Then I gave the corn to the other neighbor whom I hadn’t met yet. She was nice, but shy, and she said she has lived there nine years and still doesn’t know anybody. And then Dianne walked across the road to say hi, and we had introductions all around. It was a healing transaction for me; I no longer felt besmirched by the state of humanity. This. Right here. Actual people and a few ears of corn.

I want that simplicity of loving kindness. Please tell me, how do you keep the hubbub from destroying your peace? How do you keep your equilibrium?

29 thoughts on “Echo Chambers: The Way I See It

  1. Thank you for this post. My husband and I had Covid last fall, as well as most of our families and church. My husbands father died of Covid 2 days before Christmas. We still deal with that reality and miss him terribly. I am wondering if your husband is seeing patients who previously had Covid becoming critically ill. If you want you may email me privately. Thank you.

    1. I am sorry about the loss of your father-in-law. I am not sure what Gabe is seeing at work, but I personally know people who are on their second round, and for some it was worse than the first. It would be really sweet if you could count on lifetime immunity, like measles, or something! In a very shaky world, one thing is sure: we can count on our loving Father to be with us!

  2. Thankyou for sharing the facts so kindly. How my heart aches for all the suffering in this world! And those who care for them! Praying for your husband.
    “Love God. Love people.”

  3. You’re a brave woman, and I deeply appreciate your words! It is also very difficult for those of us who would like to hear consistent facts apart from politics and polarization, but alas, this is the world we live in. You ask, how do we stay in peace? Well, much like you described. The real people around me are by far mostly kind, generous, hopeful, and gracious. We help each other, we pray together, we worship Jesus together, we remind each other of the Eternal Rock beneath our feet. We talk about our fears and questions while our kids play games and we plan parties and serve up delicious food to appreciative audiences. I like to believe that this is the best way to combat the fear and the division and hopelessness on social media… To faithfully serve and joyfully love the real humans right around us, and forget about changing anyone’s opinions through online interactions! Opinions will be there till Jesus comes back, and He did say He will come looking for faith, not for how right (we thought) we were. Won’t that be a big surprise for many people! 😊

    1. Thanks for your kind affirmation. It was difficult to write about this without getting all ruffled up in my spirit again, but I had help and I deleted a lot! 😉 Yes, and amen! Especially that last bit. Love to you and yours, and all the ones you gather around in fellowship.

  4. Oh Dorcas. I love this post. You are a true kindred spirit. I’m so sorry for what your husband is experiencing. I wish I could articulate my feelings on these matters like you do. But I will link your post on my post this evening. Thank you for these peaceful and insightful words.

  5. I appreciate your thoughts. While reading your article a question came to my mind. How do we love and care for the doctors and nurses in our lives who are so run down. It’s really hard to fully understand the extent of what they are going through if you are not personally in it.

    1. I think they would all appreciate an end to the spreading of sensational stories that add to the problems! A little fact checking goes a long way. It’s an odd sort of gaslighting when people who have no experience insist that there would be simple fixes to the problems in healthcare, if only anybody cared enough about them. It’s a huge, complicated mess, and the insinuation that worn out people don’t care is very unfair. The reason they are burning out is because they can’t not care.

  6. I appreciate you sharing your reality. Thank you to both you and Gabe for faithfully putting in the work. I’ve struggled to not let my natural introvert become a perfect recluse in this time 😀. I remind myself to consciously smile at people in the grocery store, to invite my friends over for long conversation filled evenings, to check in on the ones I haven’t seen for awhile. Whenever I get too disenchanted with this world I unplug from social media and go talk face to face, it does wonders for my soul and makes me wonder why I don’t delete all social media permanently. But alas, I am too human.

    1. 🙂 If we could all find a peaceful little desert island… we might get lonely! And social media… there is a sort of dreadful fascination in it. I still love Instagram, but I have curated my feed pretty drastically. My own personal echo chamber. 😉

  7. Dorcas, thank you for sharing your side of the story! I am beyond tired of all the horrir stories of this . But because I know you, I know your story is true and accurate.
    I have been a part of both sides and mostly I’m just confused! I have basicly come to the point that unless I know the person…..I can’t believe what they say.
    Jesus went about doing good thats what I want to do.
    I just had to erase a whole paragragh that didn’t fit that category. 😉
    Again….thanks for sharing! And then keep sharing, because I’m being blessed by it!
    Blessings to you and yours!
    I’ll be praying for Gabe that God would fill him with strength for his duties and keep him from burnout.

    1. I’m as frustrated as anyone with trying to understand what’s going on. I simply go by what Gabe tells me firsthand, because I know that he’s not prone to exaggeration or drama. 😌 There are no easy answers or one-size-fits-all solutions, and if someone is spouting that sort of assurances, I just try to move on graciously. And then occasionally it spills out to my blog people who are already plenty weary of it all! So I thank you for your kindness in hearing me out. 😘

  8. Hey thank you for sharing the way you see it. I feel like I’m living in some sort of nightmare where by advocating to stand with our friends in the medical field I’m suddenly the divisive one…and so I’ve gone silent, but I’m cheering for you, and your husband, and others like you. Please relay to your husband how deeply I appreciate what he’s doing. I’ve read your blog for a couple years and it’s not lost on me that this is your first (?) covid related post. Sending lots of love your way tonight.
    By the way, I’m a new home school mom, with 3 little scholars ages 4, 5, and 6. 🙂 Wish me well!

  9. I found your post from the link on Luci’s blog. My brother is also an ICU nurse, having the same experience as your husband. I hope if I were to get sick I would have compassionate knowledgeable nurses like him taking care of me. In answer to your question, I find myself at odds with the majority when it comes to COVID, so I’ve made a deliberate choice -for my own peace and mental health- to bite my tongue and stay silent. There are enough opinions echoing out there, the world doesn’t need mine added to the clamor. I can do what i think is right without needing to be heard or agreed with. Thank you for posting your insights and blessings to you & yours as you serve. Prayers for grace & strength.

  10. You know that I am introverted and that I do love me some alone time! But I am realizing that when I’m alone with my thoughts too often and for too long, the depression, anxiety, fear, and doubt hits with a vengeance. For me, I have found peace most often when gathering with other believers in worship. So often I find myself in tears in the midst of singing a hymn in church, or hearing a prayer, or in a conversation. These interactions have been life! I battle the fear of another lockdown, because I recognize how very much these simple interactions keep me going.

    You, my brave friend, are one of those people who have lifted me up when my spirit was too weary to continue on; and grounded me when the turmoil swirled around me. Thank you for sharing honestly & courageously. I am convicted to renew my prayers for Gabe & Josh & others in the medical field today.

    1. Your comment got lost, somehow, but I just saw it and it brought a little damp to my eye. Yes! We need each other more than ever! I’m very grateful for you!

  11. Thanks so much for the way you wrote this. You wrote it with such love and understanding. There are a lot of confused people. You didn’t sound judgemental or pushy. I appreciate the facts from someone who doesn’t push an agenda either way but is truthful, loving, and gentle. I think this was one of the best posts I read on the matter. So thanks for being willing to write.

  12. Blessings and peace to all in this troubling time!! We need to encourage each other as never before, to love God and ask Him to help us do the right thing.

  13. Thanks so much for this honest, reasonable post. It restored my equilibrium a bit, and I may just have to come back to it again when I get disgruntled. You are so right about real people being what we need, not internet arguments.

  14. Thank you for sharing your thoughts in such a kind way. This covid thing is so confusing when we hear from people like you but our friends’ experiences are so drastically different. Someone closely related to me has been ill for a week now. When their fever was higher on the 6th day of being sick, they decided to visit urgent care. There they were examined, informed they had covid pneumonia, they must bring all other family members in to get tested the next day, and were thoroughly scolded for not coming in sooner. Do you know what the doctors did to help them? Not a thing. Absolutely nothing. No meds, no suggestions of anything to do or take to get relief. Yet they were scolded for not coming in sooner.
    The next morning they got a call from the urgent care center. A different doctor was looking at the x-rays taken the day before. He said he doesn’t see any pneumonia. And he said “We’ll let you know when we get results of the covid test.
    A phone call to a local naturopathic doctor was a lot more helpful than seeing a medical doctor in this case.
    So… we hear these stories over and over. Is it any wonder we are skeptical of the medical doctors? I’m sure there are doctors and nurses that are in it to help people, but I declare they’re scarce in this part of the country!

    1. I hear you! Nobody in distress should be shamed about their sickness, especially when they know that the best place to heal is at home, if possible. I think some in healthcare are so overwhelmed by the events of the last year that they have what is called “compassion fatigue.” When that happens, they need a break, only in the middle of a pandemic it’s not easy to take a break. And some doctors just have awful bedside manners. When that happens in ordinary times, we simply get a second opinion. It sounds like that is what they did, and I’m glad they found someone to help them.

  15. “…As if they obviously know better than all the doctors and researchers who have spent their entire lives studying the human body, and they are baffled by this inscrutable virus.”

    I think this is the main problem. Hundreds and thousands of doctors disagree on Covid. Not 1 or 2 whack jobs, but experienced, licensed, practicing virologists and immunologist and various other specialties. I think that fact is worth considering too.
    Another thing to consider for medical professionals, is that they literally work in the middle of the worst cases. It’s been in their face every single day. I dare say they have a tendency to see things through that lens – not the lens of the overage Joe who has contracted Covid, healed, moved on, and saw most of his friends go through it the same way.
    The uncharitable attitude of many healthcare workers right now is astounding, honestly.

    1. You definitely bring up a valid point. That is frustrating for those who are trying to find answers, as is the armchair scientist who knows everything. But that isn’t really the point of the post. My heart is just to promote understanding and kindness in the dialogue.
      It is true that the overwhelmed healthcare workers are seeing through the lens of the sickest people. They are barely keeping their heads above water, and the crowds are outside chanting about fake pandemics and shots. One example is the fuss about beds available. People will post things like, it’s not true that they are overwhelmed. Look at the numbers of ICU beds. My husband has been floating in a stat position to whatever units need help in his hospital system. Currently he’s working at a small hospital with 12 beds in the ICU. They only have two nurses scheduled for each shift in that unit. In normal times the sickest patients transfer to the city hospitals where there are more resources. Standard of care is two patients per nurse, and that usually covers the needs in that unit. Right now each nurse has three patients, and there’s six more beds there, likely to be used. The big hospitals are full, and sending their extras to the little guys, not the other way around. But there are not more nurses, and that’s the crisis we’re talking about. That’s why they literally cannot reach around. They can pull staff from other parts of the hospital but they don’t have training for critical care, which is highly specialized. Every time they need to turn a sedated patient, it takes 6 people, techs, aides, etc, who have to suspend their work to help. They do this twice a day. For every sedated patient. Just turning them is enough to send someone crashing when they’re that sick, so the next hour can be spent titrating their meds and trying to get them comfortable again. Meanwhile the other patients don’t get the care they need. It’s endless.
      The stories that break my husband’s heart are the ones of Average Joe, hard-working, good people who never expected this to happen and they’re devastated.
      I know you are a kind and thoughtful person, and your questions are valid. There is never a good time to be uncharitable, but this is a time to be extra kind to those who are facing these tensions every day. They are fighting a war they didn’t want and would desperately like to get out of, but they can’t. If they do they leave their companions in the lurch.

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