Healthcare workers across the state are pleading with Hoosiers to act empathetically and responsibly in the coming weeks and months to slow the spread of Covid-19.
A new website featuring this plea as well as stories and comments from healthcare workers and individuals throughout the state was launched on Monday. Hoosiers are invited to read the letter from these frontline medical workers and take part in the project by signing and even sharing their own stories.
“We are your friends and neighbors. We are public servants working to restore Hoosier health. We are bedside assistants, dietitians, doctors, environmental service staff, nurses, pharmacists, respiratory therapists, and a host of others who work to keep our healthcare system working for Hoosiers.”
Dr. Stephen Sample, an emergency room physician at Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center, is one of the doctors who helped launch this initiative.
“You know, this is me reaching out to my neighbor, who I may fundamentally disagree with on every single thing on the planet,” Sample said. “This is me saying to them, ‘your future and my future are intricately entwined together and if we don’t do this together, there is going to be so much pain. There is going to be so much pain.’”
He and a group of physicians from throughout the state have been working on the website and letter over the past few weeks. Now, as the impact of Thanksgiving gatherings is beginning to hit emergency rooms, the letter writers hope it will reach a few more people and in a show of support for exhausted frontline workers, incite them to take those extra precautions to prevent the spread.
As of Tuesday evening, about 1,200 Indiana medical professionals and 1,600 residents had signed in a show of support. Some shared their own messages which can be viewed here.
Dr. Tim Ellender works in the emergency room of the Indiana University Health Medical Center in Indianapolis where he is a trauma surgeon. Ellender is another architect behind the letter and website. He coordinated the web site’s design.
Like many healthcare workers, he’s been dealing with Covid-19 since March. He pointed out that he has been hammered by moments clarifying the seriousness of the disease since patients began showing up in emergency rooms.
According to the White House Coronavirus Task Force, last week Indiana had the eighth-highest amount of spread in the United States. This has Ellender concerned, especially with his previous eight months of experience with the virus.
His fear is that the spread will overwhelm the healthcare systems across the state as frontline workers and supplies are exhausted.
“I don’t fear the day to day care,” he explained. “I fear being overwhelmed and being crushed at the gates. I fear having two items left and seeing 20 people needing them. I fear having to choose who lives or dies because my neighbors refused to wear a face cover or forgo a meal at the Shake Shack.”
This and the apparent fatigue that has beset many people causing them to slacken in their precautions drove him and the others to create the site.
“The disease deniers, anti-masker ranks, and political conspiracy theorists have a stronghold in our communities,” Ellender said. “Many in healthcare have taken a passive role, but we can no longer afford to remain silent. Hoosiers need to hear our pleas, our stories, and need to understand that this is real, real bad.”
He has heard rumors of legislation being considered that would block or roll back public health mandates. For him, the united effort and the swelling support shown by those signatures and stories on the website are important to send a message to the state’s political leaders.
“This could be so catastrophic,” Ellender said. “I know that our political leaders hear from the Covid deniers. I want them to know that there are equal if not larger numbers of believers who will accept the sacrifice for the better good.”
He’s asking for Hoosiers to come together and look out for one another by doing the right thing. A point that is so important as vaccines are set to begin to be distributed next week.
It’s none too soon for Dr. Sample at Jasper’s emergency room. Tuesday marked the beginning wave of Covid-19 patients from the Thanksgiving get-togethers. He hopes things calm down before Christmas and that Christmas doesn’t set up the next wave of cases, patients and potential deaths.
“You know, we’ve got the finish line in sight. It may be months away, but we can see the end of this,” Sample said. “So, losing focus at this time — while every death has been tragic — it’s a special kind of tragic when we can see the finish line.”