The coronavirus has hijacked life.
But Dr. Jason Nelson, who has been an emergency physician for 16 years, said to be careful about consuming too much news about the coronavirus.
“It’s easy to say, ‘Don’t be anxious,’ and I don’t want to be trite about anxiety, but we’ve got to put our faith in what we know and that’s the Lord and His Word,” said Nelson, 47. “Quite honestly, it’s really easy to get sucked into this, watching and checking the news. I have friends that are watching the Dow Jones every hour. In this day and age with 24/7 coverage, it’s easy to do, and it’s not mentally healthy.”
Nelson primarily works in hospitals in rural Kentucky and Southern Indiana. Though coronavirus media coverage has captivated a global audience, he reminds everyone—including his colleagues on the front lines—that it shouldn’t cause us to live in despair.
“There’s definitely fear out there,” added Nelson, a Southeast Christian Church member. “Some of that I think is due to the variable reports and incomplete knowledge we’re receiving; things seem to change every day. Personally, this is my job. This is my responsibility. This is what I signed up for. So I’m cautious, but I wouldn’t use the word ‘fearful’ for me.”
Nelson said he is cautious because of his wife, Hope, and their three daughters, ages 8, 12 and 13, but they trust God will take care of him each day he heads off to work.
“At home with my three girls, we lean on the passage in Matthew 6:25-32 where Jesus talks about taking care of the birds in the air and the lilies in the field and, ‘If I take care of them can I not take care of you?’” he said. “That’s a verse we come back to. Information is changing about this daily, but the one thing that doesn’t change is the Word of God. We pray over safety for me as I go to work and for my extended family.”
Nelson said the pandemic is unprecedented because of how it has spread to the United States.
“Biologically, I think it’s similar to SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), but that’s not something we had to deal with locally,” he said. “There have been other virulent viruses, but they have always been abroad. It’s one thing to read about it, ‘Oh, that’s going on over there,’ like the Middle East respiratory syndrome, which was horrible. I think they had a 30% fatality rate, but the total number of infected was a small number in comparison to the coronavirus, and it’s easy to distance yourself when that’s happening a world away. This is unique in my career in terms of the media coverage and the fear.”
Nelson said the coronavirus still has a lot of unknowns and that causes people to be fearful.
“I think the biggest fear is, ‘Am I going to catch this? What is going to happen to me?’” Nelson said. “The initial reports were that the elderly and those with preexisting illnesses were more susceptible, which is certainly true. But in the U.S., more reports are about young people being hospitalized. So, the unknown is what’s causing fear, ‘Am I going to get sick? Am I going to take this home? Am I going to die?’”
Nelson said he desires to bring a positive perspective to the patients he serves.
“More than anything, I try to encourage them with facts, ‘You’re breathing well. Your lungs are clear. Your oxygenation is good. We are here if you start feeling short of breath, but ideally, you’re better off at home,’” Nelson added.
Hospitals have had to adjust on the fly due to the demands of the coronavirus.
Healthcare workers have a shortage of one-time use medical supplies, such as masks, and Nelson said they are being asked to reuse what they can because the thought is that “something is better than nothing.”
If anyone comes in with respiratory issues, doctors take extra precautions and place them in special rooms.
Currently, coronavirus testing kits aren’t widely available, and doctors need special permission to use them. If patients show symptoms or test positive for the coronavirus, but have normal oxygen levels and no respiratory distress, they’re told to go home and self-quarantine.
“I would say respect social distancing and the ban. Go outside, exercise, walk your dog and your kids,” Nelson said. “My wife always jokes, ‘It’s easy for me to use the word emergency,’ but to just come by the hospital to get checked is not a good idea at present.”
Washing your hands regularly is one of the best ways to protect yourself from the coronavirus, and Nelson said that while hand sanitizer is in short supply, soap is cheaper, more readily available and works just as effectively as hand sanitizer.
“I’ve chosen to put my faith in the Lord. As Kyle Idleman said, this is not a surprise to God. He knew about this and that it was coming,” Nelson said. “I don’t want to throw caution to the wind, I’m very careful, but I can’t live my life in fear and work in fear. I will follow the protocols, but I choose to live in what Jesus has told us, ‘Do not be anxious.’”