Commanding Heroes in a Time of War
Our Care Team Are Heroes
We are living in a time of war. Will history look back upon the COVID-19 pandemic as the Third World War? Unlike other wars, we are not raising arms to protect or acquire territory. This is not a political dispute that escalated to bloodshed. And we are not sending troops to protect and preserve vital natural resources. But we are in midst of a desperate global fight to save lives against a common enemy. And unlike most of the wars that the United States has fought, this time the enemy has breached our borders and has made every American citizen vulnerable, as the casualty toll spreads geographically and rises in number by the day.
Automobile companies are manufacturing respirators, weapons in this war. Local distilleries have pivoted their operations to produce hand sanitizer. People who work in promotional items are now sourcing protective masks and gowns for health care providers. Schools are shuttered. Traffic is a memory. Twenty-two million Americans filed for unemployment in just four weeks, between the middle of March until the middle of April. Nursing homes, hospitals, and cities have no room to store the fatalities of this war, while New York City is digging mass graves. Doctors and nurses who are on the front-lines are praised as heroes. And people all across the globe are afraid to walk outside, lest they become the next target of a different type of sniper’s rifle.
As of my writing this, I am still going to work at my office every day. Mine is an essential business, but unlike the liquor stores and dry-cleaners, without which our lives may be less comfortable but people’s health and wellness would not be at greater risk. As a provider of in-home care, skilled nursing, and healthcare staffing, my troops are as essential as air for many vulnerable people in our communities who depend on others for the most basic of needs. Some of the individuals for whom we provide care cannot independently eat without their caregivers’ assistance. Others would be at great risk of falling. Many would not take their life sustaining prescriptions without a nurse setting them up in med boxes and a certified nursing assistant reminding them to take their medications. Some are bed-bound. Others are wheelchair bound. The population that we serve and protect may not be on ventilators or require heroic measures to keep their hearts beating. But our troops provide care, without which, many individuals simply could not live.
I first started to see our Care Team as heroes when one particular caregiver, nearly seven years ago, told me that she had to strip down to her bra and underwear in order to get into the shower with her client to keep her safe and prevent her from falling. It was then that I understood the extent to which our employees go for the people they serve.
In March, everything changed. Suddenly our employees became troops in a war against a novel coronavirus. My days were spent wheeling and dealing as I worked feverishly to secure PPE for our healthcare workers so our troops would not have to go into battle without masks and gloves, the modern helmet and bulletproof vest. My wife told me I reminded her of Efraim Diveroli, an arms dealer played by Jonah Hill in the film “War Dogs.”
Because our business does not only provide private in-home care, but we also staff assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing facilities, our caregivers, CNAs, and nurses are working floors and units with positive COVID-19 patients, and some are providing direct care for these individuals. The burden I feel when sending employees to the front-line, putting them at risk for infection, and raising the likelihood of exposing their family members at home is heavy and it is humbling. I do not, for a moment, take for granted, the selflessness with which our troops assume their responsibilities at this time of war. As a scout is sent ahead to spy the position of the enemy, we fight to learn about the presence of the enemy virus and the extent of the outbreaks on the battlefields to which we send our troops. No bullets are whizzing past our soldiers’ ears because in this war the enemy is both silent and invisible. A hacking cough or phantom sneeze remind armies of healthcare workers of their vulnerability. And yet, with purpose, they advance forward on the battlefield.
I have stood upon the battlefield, not because I am the best equipped person to provide care, but because I need my soldiers to know that I would never send them somewhere I would not willingly go. I believe a crisis only amplifies a person’s character. A jerk only becomes a bigger jerk when the going gets tough. But a giver, a person who puts others before herself, she has distinguished herself by her true heroism. And my heroes, our employees who confront this elusive enemy virus with true bravery, are reminding me why, even at a time when our nation is deeply divided by partisan politics, I have great faith in humanity.