We need to expand our understanding of trauma.
Often, attention goes to the military and their experiences of “soldiering,” but a wide range of experiences results in trauma.
The child removed from a dangerous home only to be placed in a dangerous foster care situation will experience trauma at the failure of adults and the state.
Men and women who have been raped. Children molested in their childhood years. Tragic accidents like car crashes, plane crashes and other injuries. All of these experiences and many more create lasting trauma.
As a new year begins, I find myself deeply concerned about our frontline “soldiers” battling for the lives of Americans and, for that matter, people around the world. I am speaking of the world of health care workers, both here and around the world.
Two recent developments are hopeful: the arrival of vaccines and the emergency use authorization of some more effective medications and procedures to fight COVID-19.
Getting us to this place has been an extraordinary effort on the part of scientists, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Sadly, the arrival of vaccines was slowed by lack of coordination between Pfizer, Moderna, the federal government and state governments.
Politicians have been seriously less helpful. A mid-December report revealed that thousands of vaccine doses were sitting in storage waiting for directions from the U.S. government on where to send them.
It will take months to actually begin to see vaccine relief from this pandemic, as vaccinations will take time to distribute to the majority of the population. Also, it will take a few weeks after receiving the vaccine for immunity to develop.
Recently, I saw a ridiculous social media post denying the lethality of COVID-19 among every age group. Instead, a graph touted a 99-plus% recovery rate for COVID-19.
Such malicious untruths only hamper the work of those whose daily mission is saving lives.
Across this nation, first responders are loading up folks on gurneys, putting them in ambulances, rushing them to overcrowded hospitals to be treated by overworked health care professionals.
These women and men have chosen the fields of medicine, nursing and therapies because most of them want to make a difference in their world by working in the health care system.
What most did not sign up for was immersion in treating patients because of a pandemic, which has been made worse by COVID-19 deniers.
The figures are staggering.
According to CDC data, in the United States alone, more than 20 million people have contracted COVID-19 and more than 340,000 have died as a result of the virus. However, the death count is never the end of the story.
Other diseases or illnesses have not taken a holiday, further overwhelming our health care workers as they seek to care for the patients flooding the nation’s hospitals.
And still, that is not the end of the story.
Over the last 20-plus years, the U.S. health care system has changed significantly. The advances in treatments and medications have resulted in fewer stays and fewer days in the hospital.
The emergence of “surgery centers” have made it often unlikely a person will have to be hospitalized. For me, two shoulder surgeries and two cataract surgeries were all done outside a hospital setting.
So, hospitals have adapted. Bed space has been consolidated, and intensive care units reduced. As a result, hospitals are more easily overwhelmed while doctors and nurses are more easily overworked.
This is where trauma and health care workers intersect. Months of caring for the tsunami of very sick patients suffering from a virus, which health care professionals were learning about with each new case, is traumatic.
Every physician and nurse has to learn how to deal with loss as the inevitable part of their profession, but rarely do they see it at such an epic scale.
So, what can people of faith practically do in these days?
First, understand, above all else, that this is not a political issue. This is a public health emergency.
Second, and most basic, do your part in keeping yourself and those you love safe.
The guidance has not changed. Wash your hands frequently and well. Wear an adequate mask, which covers both your mouth and your nose. Practice social distancing.
Third, and equally important, pray.
Pray for the army of health care workers who care for the sick, the scientists who have developed the vaccines in record time and everyone involved in producing and distributing the vaccines.
Finally, remain engaged in support of, and care for, health care workers.
We must not forget their sacrifices and heroism once this crisis has passed. They will be processing their experiences and the resulting trauma from the pandemic for a long time.
We must do our part to care for them with the same diligence and commitment with which they care for so many of us.
Wash your hands, wear your mask for others, mind the gap and be kind and openhearted.
A private practice counselor working with veterans and survivors of trauma, he recently relocated to Round Rock, Texas, to be closer to family. Previously, Chancellor served four churches in Texas for 33 years, then ran a Mental Health Department of Alan B. Polunsky Maximum Security prison which houses death row.