A patient’s plea: I don’t know who to put my trust in

Do you wake up these days thinking that you’ve been whisked off your feet by some strange force and dropped in some unidentifiable place, similar to what happened to Dorothy and Toto in the Wizard of Oz?  For the two of them, there was a happy ending. The ending of our current dilemma seems to be uncertain.

As a patient with more than one chronic disease in my repertoire,  I find myself living now in very uncertain times. I suppose I can place blame on the COVID-19 pandemic, but I’m not sure it should receive the full blame. Why did our country, the United States of America, find itself so ill-prepared to combat this virus? With the plethora of highly respected medical institutions across our country, why weren’t we prepared for this scenario? Were we that cocky to think that something of this magnitude would never happen to us? History has already proven that theory wrong, i.e., Ebola, swine flu, HIV, etc.

As of late, the media has given the general public contradictory information relating to COVID. The directive was given that if an asymptomatic individual had been exposed to someone who had tested positive for the virus that it would be unnecessary for that person to himself be tested. Really! Have we lost all semblance of sanity? Within days that directive was rescinded, and the opposite opinion was given. If you, as physicians, were confused and alarmed, how do you think the “normal” person felt?

There has been so much confusion from the very beginning about this pandemic. Should we wear masks as a form of protection? Apparently, from the federal level of government, the answer was no. Until relatively recently, after thousands of deaths among the American public, did half-hearted guidance come into being. The Centers for Disease Control, headed by Dr. Robert Redfield, has taken a large credibility hit lately. If the CDC doesn’t offer guidance in line with our President’s beliefs, in my opinion, then it is said that it is invalid. It is my belief, that to have the welfare of the American citizenry being battered about for what appears to be political reasons, is a travesty. We are talking about lives at stake here, people! A bit more important than votes that may be cast for or against in the upcoming Presential election.

From the very beginning, it appears that our President often acts and speaks in contradiction to our most trusted medical experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, both having served on the Coronavirus Task Force. Both seemed to have fallen out of favor with the President and have been set to the side. Instead, the President now has a physician who has no formal training in infectious diseases to guide him. What logic is in that, other than having someone closeby who is a “yes” person, telling you what you want to hear?

I am at a point when after seven months of dealing with COVID-19, I don’t know who to put my trust in. The only representatives of medicine that I’m willing to believe are those physicians who have served me personally over the past several years. They have earned my trust by their diligence in maintaining my health. But what becomes of those who have not developed a relationship with a primary care physician or any physician, in general? This should be the time for the light to shine brightly upon primary care doctors, those physicians who get to know their patients on a fairly regular basis, not hit or miss contacts through urgent care centers or virtual doctor visits. Both of these have their places in medicine, but not for establishing long term commitment between doctor and patient.

Are we prepared for a second wave of the COVID virus in combination with the flu striking us this winter season? I’ve been doing all within my power to protect myself during these past months – wearing a mask, social distancing, washing my hands frequently, getting my flu shot but will it be enough? We are still far from having adequate testing supplies available for the public to take advantage of and for the results of those tests to be given back to those persons in a timely fashion. I had to wait approximately four weeks to get my COVID test results back; this is not an acceptable timeframe.

Has our government, both at the federal and state levels, learned the hard lessons taught by this virus? I pray that they have. Even if a COVID vaccine becomes available by the end of this year, sources say that it will not be available to the general public until months later. Front line staff and the most health compromised individuals will stand first in line. But the vaccine raises another issue in my mind and, I assume, in the minds of others. It seems the development of such a vaccine has been pushed through at warped speed, targeting its arrival by Election Day 2020. Many fear that the rush to deliver a vaccine is partially due to political reasons during this volatile political year. Will this vaccine be effective but more importantly, will it be safe? The FDA says yes, but I have my reservations. I so desperately would like to be proven wrong.

Unlike Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, I don’t own a pair of “ruby red slippers” that I can use to click my heels together so I can get back to a place and time I trust. I ask that those who are in a position to do so, bring sanity back to the governing of our people and back to our institutions that direct our health care.

Michele Luckenbaugh is a patient. 

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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