On the Side: May 2020
by Sharon Chatwell
Let’s face it, I would never be “voted off” the island. I tell my kids this all the time, and they are smart enough to agree with me. Mostly it’s because I can cook, but also because I’m good in a crisis and have a working knowledge of first aid. My husband says that out of our entire family I would be the one person voted “Most Likely to Survive if Dropped Alone in a Wilderness Area.” He actually tells people that I don’t think a campfire is big enough, unless it can be “seen from space.”
All this may be true, but I didn’t expect to have to use my survival skills in my own home over the last few months. And, I bet you didn’t either.
I think all of us have been taken aback by the COVID-19 virus. Because of it, we have all spent months trying to figure out how to stay at home, homeschool our kids and work remotely, all at the same time. “Social distancing” has become the new watchword, as we struggle together to find new ways to keep this virus from overwhelming our medical facilities and causing even more deaths.
As women married to doctors, we’ve had an additional role to play in all of this, and it’s one that cannot be overstated. We have been taking care of our spouses, while they have been taking care of everyone else.
As this article goes to print, America is just now beginning to implement the slow and stepwise process of lifting restrictions so businesses, churches and schools can eventually get up and running again. It will undoubtedly be a gradual process, with many starts and stops, but we will get through this just as we have gotten through everything else up to this point—together and by the grace of God.
In Psalm 18:3, King David writes, “I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, And I am saved from my enemies” (NASB). Like David, we need to keep in mind the One who delivers us and remember that He is worthy to be praised!
Perhaps, as we begin to emerge from our homes, we should also take time to consider the lessons we have learned and can take away with us from all of this. I believe we have all been reminded of what is most important to us, like our families, our health and our faith. We may have also learned that we can get along with less. And a few of us may even have discovered we prefer staying at home with our kids or working from home. But most of all, I hope all of us have learned to cherish the things we love, even things we may have taken for granted in the past.
My husband says this would also be a good time for us to remember why we got into medicine in the first place. Most, if not all, doctors went into medicine with a true desire to help people. The reality is that often, when helping others, you also put yourself at risk. As wives of doctors, we share that risk, which can affect not only the health and safety of our husbands, but also those of our families and ourselves.
As a result, many of our husbands have been “socially distancing” themselves from us in one way or another, in order to protect us. You hear all kinds of stories. I know of one medical family in which the physician husband, who also serves as the medical director of the regional hospital, actually moved into the hospital complex for the duration. He did this to reduce his wife’s and children’s exposure to the virus. And across the nation many resident physicians have been coming home less often to their wives and small children, for the very same reason.
This is a hardship and one we will be happy to be done with.
At the same time, the outpouring of generous spirit toward doctors and medical staff has been remarkable. People consider them to be on the “frontlines” of a great battle, and they have been trying to find ways to help. One family, as part of an Eagle Scout project, raised money to provide meals for local physicians and hospital staff, who were working around the clock. The success of their project was so great that it received local news coverage, leading to further donations from many restaurants and businesses. To date, they have provided thousands of meals.
There are countless stories of every extreme. Many of them are positive and reveal our American “can do” spirit.
Churches have also gone to new lengths to reach out to their congregants. At my own church, the pastor and staff filmed their parts of the Easter worship service in their own homes, humorously featuring some antiquated recording equipment. Then the various parts were all put together by our crack technical team. The result was one of the most ingeniously creative and moving services we’ve ever had. Never have I felt so connected, or so well understood, as I did that morning, as we all fought to be “together” despite the difficulties and necessary limitations.
We will get through this! By the grace of God, we will eventually all go back to school and work. But while that happens, let’s not forget what we have learned.
Let’s hold our families closer. Let’s treat others more gently and with greater respect. Let’s work hard together. And let’s continue to admire and encourage our husbands and take care of them, as they have certainly taken care of us!
Sharon is a physician’s spouse living in beautiful Lincoln, Nebraska. She reports that despite wanting to go outside, she has been inside her home for 98 percent of the last two months. (Yes, she did the math.) She prays God will continue to bless you and your family during this difficult time and keep you safe and well.