Last night the second of the two nurses infected with Ebola in Dallas arrived at Emory University Hospital which is within a few blocks of my house. I send Amber Vinson healing thoughts and wish her caregivers strength and resilience, as I thank them all for their sacrifice and service.
When we drove home from school yesterday afternoon at 4:30 p.m., there were about four local news trucks plus scads of police cars lining our route. By the time we returned from soccer practice at about 7:30 p.m., all major news organizations had a presence.
I knew Vinson had arrived at Emory because of the major helicopter traffic over my house. The same happened when the two surviving patients Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol arrived as well. Luckily, the kids had fallen into a deep sleep at that point.
All this is to say, we’ve had lots of Ebola conversations in our house lately.
As a backdrop, you should know that I work hard to deliver age-appropriate, honest information to the kids. I don’t avoid their questions, but I try to answer only what is asked and balance their need for information with the understanding that they don’t possess adult brains. I don’t want to shield them from reality, but I also don’t want to cause undue anxiety because I’ve piled adult problems into a child-size brain.
So, in sum, I don’t run from the tough conversations when they arise naturally, but I also don’t voluntarily launch into discussions of world events with them. We don’t watch the news in our house and I turn off NPR when they get into the car. Most of what they learn they get from reading the paper with us.
Except … Ebola.
It’s literally in our neighborhood. Ebola isn’t some scary thing happening in Africa. My kids’ daily lives are affected by it. I mean, when you’re a child and your commute to school changes, you notice. And these news trucks would be hard to miss.
So, there are questions. And, it’s hard, isn’t it, balancing the honest answers with comfort and reassurance when you’re talking about a disease with a 50-90% mortality rate?
“What’s the big deal, Mommy? Why do all these TV stations care about a patient at Emory?”
They asked, this time, if the patient had come from Africa like the others. I explained that she was a nurse who cared for someone who had come from Africa. They have friends with moms and dads at Emory University Hospital. They have an aunt and uncle in the healthcare field. They have friends whose parents are with the CDC. I could just see the information processing in their little brains.
You know that quote from Mr. Rogers that gets posted all over social media whenever tragedy strikes? To look for the helpers? I hope that’s their takeaway from all this – that when disaster struck, our neighbors at Emory heeded the call and helped. That their friends’ moms and dads helped. That the news stations cared enough to have people camped out in our neighborhood unceasing for days.
That people are dying, yes. But that people care.