ATLANTA—Emory University Hospital, where America’s first Ebola patient arrived Saturday, is close to me. The neighborhood where I live is heavily seeded with people who work for the Centers for Disease Control, which is equally close to me. My friends and loved ones have been treated at that hospital. Full disclosure, I am an alumna of the university.
So when I read about people who are concerned about the deadly virus coming here, I feel I have skin in the game. I get to comment.
An old, beloved hobby of mine is choral singing. I’m not much of a musician. I can barely sight read.
You can tell something about people by how they treat the less talented.
A Kind Tenor
I’m an alto, which is challenging, because they sing the harmony, not the melody. So they need to be able to read the part. But I barely could, leading to off-track warbling. One fellow alto literally slapped my hand—not nice.
Dr. X, classically trained tenor and child diarrhea specialist with the CDC, and his kind-hearted wife would position themselves near me. She would sing the alto part right in my ear. Then I could do it!
He would smile his encouragement. In rehearsals, he would go over the alto part with me until I got it. Nobody made him do this. It was simple altruism, thinking of others.
If Dr. X got Ebola, I would bring him to the best possible hospital. He is a good man and deserves the best.
That piece of artistic altruism is a small sign of the characters of so many of the health professionals and missionaries trying to help with the outbreak in West Africa. They sacrifice and work hard to benefit others. It’s the essence of being human.
Dr. Kent Brantly, the first Ebola victim to arrive, recognized his symptoms first and quarantined himself. There was one dose of an experimental serum meant to treat the disease. He refused to take it and insisted the other infected American, missionary Nancy Writebol, should get it, ABC reported. She will arrive at Emory this week.
Would it make sense to leave a person like that to his fate, when he gets a better chance to survive by coming home? No.
People are wary. Ebola is a horrific disease with a high mortality rate. The Department of Defense said it could be weaponized. It had never come to America before.
But as the State Department said when announcing the evacuations, “The safety and security of U.S. citizens is our paramount concern. Every precaution is being taken to move the patients safely and securely, to provide critical care en route on a noncommercial aircraft, and to maintain strict isolation upon arrival in the United States.”
There is the usual fermentation going on in the paranoia sphere. I won’t engage it. Nobody is trying to decimate the population in order to install fascism or communism, honestly.
A legitimate concern is CDC’s recent embarrassments with anthrax and smallpox. It seems they left them lying around, which is universally agreed to be not good or smart. But CDC lab safety, which was truly flawed, and patient safety at an exceptional hospital with the eyes of the world on it, are two different matters.
US News & World Report regularly ranks it as among the best in the country.
When the hospital got the news that the patients were coming, it sent a letter to the Emory community, which read in part:
“We have a highly specialized, isolated unit in the hospital that was set up in collaboration with the CDC to treat patients who are exposed to certain serious infectious diseases. This unit is physically separate from other patient areas and has unique equipment and infrastructure that provide an extraordinarily high level of clinical isolation. In fact, Emory University Hospital is one of just four facilities in the entire country with such a specialized unit.”
Nothing is gained by indulging our worst fears. Even though our institutions are flawed, our leaders are flawed, life on Earth is flawed, it’s better to adjust your mind to be a little bit brave.
So, welcome, Ebola patients. I very much hope you make it, and want you to have the best chance.