Unclean! Unclean!

“And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip, and shall cry, Unclean, unclean.” Leviticus 13:45 KJV

She had a cough that lingered. It wasn’t unlike the “grunge” that often plagues our area during the winter months, one of the many long suffering respiratory ailments almost forgotten when Covid took the stage. She took the Covid test and then took it again, and the results were negative both times.

Over time the cough got worse and it was harder to breathe. She took the Covid test for the third time and once again, it was negative. Then she called her doctor and her husband drove her the hour trip for her appointment. A nurse asked her the now standard list of questions about the plague symptoms and she said, “I do have a cough. I’ve had it for several weeks, and I’m tired all the time.” The nurse said, “I’m sorry but you’re going to have to go outside, right now.”

“But I’ve just taken the Covid test, three times, and the results were negative. I’ve never had a fever or any other symptoms.” The nurse responded, “I’m sorry, but you’ve got two symptoms. Call us again in about a week and we’ll setup another appointment.”

There was no effort to further assess her condition. No guidance was given. She was summarily dismissed with an almost hostile glare that evoked ancestral memories of lepers driven outside the city walls to cry “Unclean!” should anyone approach.

After a week or so she called her doctor again and said, “Look, I don’t have Covid. I’ve taken the test 3 times in the last 2 weeks and the results have all been negative. I have asthma – just look at my medical history. I need you to help me figure out why it’s getting harder to breathe and I’m still coughing.”

On the day of her appointment, she took the Covid test for the fourth time, and this was the government issued test that came in the mail. The results were negative. When she got to the doctor’s office the nurse told her, “I’m sorry, but your appointment was for a tele-health visit.” “But I just drove an hour to get here. No one told me this was an online visit.” “I’m sorry, but you’ve still got two Covid symptoms and you’ll have to go back outside, but you can come back at 4 o’clock this afternoon for our sick clinic.”

“That’s another two hours of driving, and I’m already tired.” “I’m sorry,” the nurse said.

She sat in her car and cried. While she was in the parking lot, another nurse dialled the wrong number and called her home phone an hour away. Her husband answered. The nurse said, “Would you like to schedule a visit to our clinic this afternoon for your wife?” “Ah…she’s sitting in your parking lot right now.” “We can’t see her in person. She’s got two of the Covid symptoms.” “She’s taken the test 4 times, all negative.” “I’m sorry but we don’t accept those tests. She’ll have to take a PCR test.” “We don’t know what that is, but go ahead and give her one.” “We don’t administer those tests.” “Then where can she get one?” “You can go online and find a testing location.”

A few days later she went to the special “sick clinic.” She walked into a room and someone yelled through a small opening for her to stand in the middle of the floor. It was hard to hear over the roar of some kind of air moving equipment. The room was cold. There was an elderly lady standing ahead of her at a distance who said, “I’ve been standing here for 20 minutes. I’m tired and I’m freezing to death.”

Eventually a nurse came out in full “space suit” gear and took her vitals, listened to her breathe through a stethoscope. She yelled some numbers through a little opening to another nurse on the other side of the wall. They prescribed antibiotics and an inhaler. “Next.”

Never be afraid to fire your doctor. Her next one wore a mask, not a space suit, and said, “You’ve had these symptoms so long that a PCR test wouldn’t tell us anything.” Within the first 5 minutes of the visit, the doctor put a pulse oximeter on her finger and saw immediately that not enough oxygen was making it into the bloodstream. Forty five minutes later she was in the ER and the next day she had emergency surgery to remove an obstruction that was beginning to collapse her right lung. She woke up the next day in ICU on oxygen with a ventilator. She came that close to losing her life but for the prayers of her supporters and those remaining angels of mercy unbroken by the plague.

In case you were wondering, she is now recovering rapidly and getting stronger every day, and with gratitude we acknowledge that in order to work long in the medical profession, you must have a calling. Even without the plague, the pressures on the medical community are enormous.

When you add the additional pressures of Covid-19, the fear festival of corporate media, the fear mongering of the political class and the overwhelming numbers of sick people added to the burden, the damage to our healthcare system and it’s workers has been widespread. Some who were once healers are now just employees. You can see the exhaustion in their eyes, the anger and the despair. The woman in our story this week had the misfortune of choosing a practice where the pressures of pandemic had precipitated fear and resentment of the very patients they were meant to help.

Some have left the profession, either temporarily to recover from the stress, or permanently. I’ve heard stories of staff who were forced to work over 90 hours a week for a hospital corporation which played the victim of rising costs and being understaffed – but somehow managed to report record profits.

You can see it in their eyes, and it looks a lot like what you see in the eyes of veterans returning from war. Some will be bent; some broken. But many who survive the trial by fire grow stronger in the process. They are still out there in our hospitals and clinics, angels of mercy, with an attitude. Thank God for that.

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