Op/Ed

A letter to our community from a Porter doc

Time. I learned long ago not to play the “what if” game. What if the tree branch didn’t break? What if the car didn’t swerve? What if the knife hit the avocado pit instead of the flexor tendon? What if the sadness that happened never happened? There are no answers to these questions that ever change the outcome. I have learned that what is most important is how we deal with the now. But, I am not perfect. I must admit to playing that game a little bit these days, but given everything that is happening in this world, I imagine that we all are.
Pants. Apparently, Amazon is having a spike in shirt orders, but a clear paucity on the sale of pants. They are usually a natural complement to each other so why would this be? My guess: telehealth. Personally, I am old fashioned. I still like paper, I resisted a smartphone as long as I could and I am lost without a note card full of check-y boxes. I have known about telehealth for months but was unaware of its power until now. Full disclosure, I have swung to the dark side and while I prefer meeting patients face-to-face, I can make do with this substitute for now. Thankfully, during this time of social distancing and “only essential” visits, there has been a dedicated army of Porter IT personnel and a visionary colleague that have been working tirelessly to bring your “shirted” providers to your living room. Never mind that they might still be in their jammie bottoms, their commitment to your well-being and health has never been stronger.
Community. There are so many ways to define and experience community. For me, community is the place where I live, work, play, and make memories. I have been making memories in the Middlebury community for more than 40 years. From my first job at Bakery Lane (now Middlebury Bagel), to my busing days at Fire & Ice, to my current position at Porter, this has always been a great place to live. People are nice here and the hardest part of the COVID health crisis is that nice people are suffering. Our community is suffering. You don’t have to “have COVID” to feel its presence. The darkened windows of our favorite restaurants and empty playgrounds tell the story.
This is really really really hard.
But, do I believe that this is forever? No. There is too much joy and love in this community to not find solutions that bring us to the other side. I hear smart, creative things that people in Middlebury are doing every day to carry us through. For me, that is deeply inspirational to the work happening on the Porter campus. Besides, not sure about anyone else, but I refuse to give up on my personal quest for a warm glazed doughnut and plate of Moose Nachos.
Friends. I am blessed with amazing friends. The network of incredible people supporting me is strong. Does anyone else find it entirely cruel that during this time when we really need our friends, we are being asked to keep our distance? But my friends are finding a way. We are all finding ways. Letters, Zoom, Facetime, texts, posters, emoji’s, and the six-foot “air hug” all make huge contributions to our mental and physical health. Certainly, these things have mattered to me over the past few weeks but if I were to issue any word of advice, it would be this: all current projections in Vermont say that this is a marathon, not a sprint. So hang in there, stay safe, and fire off the occasional emoji to a friend. It makes a difference.
Family. I would be nothing without them. Every day they remind me to laugh and find pleasure in the things that matter. Thankfully, they are also forgiving when I switch gears and need to cry. My kids are like every other kid out there: trying to find some kind of cadence to daily life that doesn’t make their parents go nuts. Not always as successful as one could hope, but remember — marathon, not a sprint. It is hard to imagine what it must be like to be on their end of this COVID crisis. Do they think we went to bizarre-o land where everyone wears a mask and sings Happy Birthday 10 times a day? Do they wonder what happened to all of their playdates, alternative caregivers, and teachers? When I get lost in the soup of asking these kinds of questions, it is helpful for me to remember that kids are resilient, there is no way that this is the new forever. Plus, I remind myself again that the “what if” game has little value in the “now.”
Time. Is it measureable and predictable. Life, not so much. We are where we are… because, in the end, the branch DID break, the car DID swerve, and darn it all, the knife MISSED the avocado pit. As we forge our way through this new and unexpected world we face, we are only going to be successful by drawing strength from our community, our friends and our family…not to mention a nice pair of comfy pants.
Amanda Young, MD
Medical Director of Hospital Based Services
Emergency Medicine
Porter Medical Center
Middlebury

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