From the Front Lines – Covid-19

Letter from a Doctor on the Front Lines

April 18, 2020

To those of you who are feeling afraid today, I have a message that can impact your way of thinking and release you from the grip of fear. 

I’m no stranger to fear; I’ve felt it many times before.  It nearly overpowered me in my youth and I have battled against it all my life.  I’ve learned ways to subdue it but often it makes a strong resurgence.  I felt it more than ever while working as an emergency physician in a war zone field hospital a few years ago.

As a human emotion, fear is meant to protect us from harm.  But what good is that emotion if its combined with my decision to follow Jesus?  Sometimes our very purpose lies on the other side of fear.  It’s then we need to push past fear and trust God.  This kind of courage has the potential to change lives, mine and yours. 

The key to conquering fear is courage and the secret to courage is love.  Love compelled me to serve in a war zone and that same love carried me through.  But that time is over now.  I survived the experience and I live in a safer place now.  At least I thought so…

Today fear is back and I guess the war zone is too.  This time the enemy is much more elusive, invisible actually.  It’s a virus called Covid-19.  It has taken over the world and is changing everything.  No more travel, no more school, no more church gatherings. The future is uncertain for all of us.  Consumed by the numbers and the global impact of this disease I feel fear creeping back into my life again.  I’m an emergency physician and it’s my job to go to work and save lives, but as the number of cases and subsequent deaths grow each day, my fear seems to be growing with it.  What if I bring this disease home at the end of the day?  What if those closest to me get it and rapidly deteriorate?  Do I even have a choice?  I mean, it’s my job to do this.

The virus has changed everything.  Our entire hospital has evolved to fight the disease.  Elective surgeries canceled, virtual clinic visits, staffing re-purposed to meet the escalating demands of the emergency department and ICU.  We even built a large tent facility outside the hospital to care exclusively for covid patients as volumes and severity of the illness increase.  And even with all of these measures we still haven’t reached the top of the curve yet. We all fear what comes next. We’ve all watched the news; we know how bad it can get.

But then, peace enters the narrative.  Slow down, stop even.  Spend time with the Father in prayer.  Fill our minds with Jesus and let love have its way.  Remember the key to conquering fear is courage and the secret to courage is love.  Let’s let the love that comes from above enter our hearts, our souls and our minds. Allow the author of love to help with our present circumstance, and demonstrate that love courageously.  The outcome will be the dissipation of fear from our present reality. 

For me, there was an opportunity to volunteer working long hours in our newly-constructed covid tent.  Not a popular volunteer opportunity, lacking physicians eligible or willing to work in it.  But maybe the risk was an opportunity to sacrifice for my colleagues, and serve for the sake of others.  To lean into my purpose and let Jesus shine bright in my workplace.  At the same time, I recognized it wasn’t just my risk, but also involved risks for my wife and children.  Yes, the odds of surviving with only mild symptoms are in our favor, but being in the same family of a front-line healthcare worker in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic?   

In our home we talk about risk for the right reasons, but this decision required a commitment from each of us.  We could all suffer for the choice.  Unanimously, my wife, 10 and 12-year-old each chose to let love conquer their fear.  Taking risk and suffering whatever consequence in order to lean into our purpose and our call as a family was the right thing.  So, I went to battle each day covered in prayer.  ”Dear Jesus, protect my Daddy from the coronavirus,” my daughter would pray.  “God please keep Dad and all the hospital workers safe,” prayed over me by my son.  My prayer was, “Lord protect my family and help me to be a light for others to see your love in me.”  

I fought hard in the trenches and did all I could to protect my family from the potential consequences but I’m human and today, discovered I’m not invincible.  I’ve been forced off the front-line because I tested positive for Covid-19.  After my last stretch of shifts, I suffered a bad headache and aches and pains throughout my body.  Initially, I thought it was merely the stress of the fight but the test told me differently.  The test told me Covid found its way past my personal protective equipment and into my body.

So, fear is back again today.  Fear for my family and my future.  Then, as I reflect on the journey the fear quickly fades.  Why? Because of the call and the greater purpose in the story, and because of the true reality of this present darkness.  Fear is not the end of me and neither is Covid.  It’s an opportunity to love and let others see, and it’s lifechanging.  I have a hope and a future that surpasses anything this life sends my way.  I’m at peace with whatever’s next because the same One who holds my future is also right beside me. 

So, to you I say, stop listening to fear and start listening to love.  Step into courageous faith today.  Practice safe strategies to reduce the spread of Covid, but look for ways to love your neighbor.  Put others before yourself; they will see your action and lead them to question why?  Your answer can set them free.   

It’s about Jesus.  He fulfilled His purpose and call for our benefit.  His is my example and He is why fear has no power in my life anymore.  What Jesus did for me, I will do for others.  Yesterday a warzone, today Covid, and tomorrow is for Him to decide. 

Do not to let fear ruin your present or steal your future.  Choose love as your motivation in this life.  Have the courage to lean into your calling and find your true purpose.  Look to His strength to accomplish the task so that all may know His name.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Matthew 22:37-39