Wow, what a day it has been. Well really it has been a crazy week or so, but today was the culmination of many things that have been happening recently. I decided to write down some of my personal experiences related to the coronavirus outbreak - maybe just as personal therapy - but regardless I'm sharing them here. Maybe some part of my experience is relatable to others and we can ride along together...
Last Tuesday, some of the news reports had been mounting, and I finally became concerned enough about this "coronavirus" to dig a little deeper. I have a two year old with Down syndrome, and I was aware that the elderly and vulnerable populations had been suffering more severe illness than younger, healthier people. I decided to dive in and look at this virus, its outcomes, and the spread worldwide. It became clear to me that the United States was on a crash course with this outbreak. Initially I was thinking it would be weeks - maybe we could conveniently add on to the kids' spring breaks. But within 24 hours it was clear that we would be lucky to make it to spring break, and by the end of last week school had been cancelled for the next two weeks. My first concern was for my employees and their ability to care for their children while continuing to work to provide for their families. And for my wife, who was already struggling with the thought of having the older kids home during spring break while my youngest has therapy four days a week...
Fast forward to last weekend, when "social distancing" became a common phrase seemingly overnight. Everything was cancelled (except for hockey tryouts, of course), including my four-year-old's musical that the kids have worked so hard on over the past few months. By Sunday night, I came to the realization that I could not operate my pediatric dental office in the usual fashion. You see, "social distancing" and pediatric dentistry don't mix very well. It is an up-close profession, and is highly dependent on close contact. Despite the fears of paying rent, student loans, a mortgage, and the fact that six wonderful people depend on me to pay their own mortgages, rent, and bills, I decided to close the office in the best interest of myself, my family, my employees, and of course all of my patients. I have no idea when we will be back to work. Today, we are closed for two weeks, but I fear it may be triple or quadruple that long.
What does somebody do with an indefinite vacation? First, worry about how I can continue to pay my employees some reasonable portion of their regular wages so that they can feed their families. Needless to say, it wasn't easy to get a hold of anyone at the bank today, and when I did they offered very few answers. We are supposedly waiting to hear what kind of small business relief package the feds put together soon. But I can't put all my eggs in that basket, so back to the bank I go.
Then there's the realization that this is the only opportunity in my lifetime that I will get to spend this much time with my wife and kids. I always think about having more time with my family, and to read, and exercise, and garden. And when I woke up this morning, my wife had erased our ENTIRE dry-erase calendar in the kitchen, because EVERYTHING is cancelled. I went into work for about 5 hours today to plan out the next week or so and develop an email to send to my staff. But starting tonight, I really don't have any other plans. We started "The Game of Life" on the dining room table with the kids, and we'll pick up where we left off tomorrow. I'm really looking forward to this time together.
Finally, I wonder how I can best contribute to my community during this crisis. I called our church and offered to help with delivery of groceries and other supplies to the elderly and vulnerable in our congregation. They added me to the email list, but no tasks yet... I emailed Christ Hospital, where I have staff privileges, and offered my limited skill set to whatever use they could find for me. And a good friend who is an oral surgeon knows he can call me any time. Oral surgeons are going to bear a significant burden of people in need while all of the dental offices remain closed.
I hope to add more photos to future posts. I wasn't prepared today. I did take a photo of all of the garbage in my car before I cleaned it all out, but I don't know how to get it from my phone to my laptop. I guess I have time to learn.
I'm surprised to find that the one thing I miss most today is interaction with my patients. When I went into work and saw all of the names on the schedule who had to be moved, it really started to sink in. I miss all of you. This "social distancing" is not easy for me. But we'll all get through this together.
Wash your hands. Stay healthy. See you soon!