Yet I Will Not Forget You
As the fight against the novel coronavirus rages on in the United States, MedSend has been checking in with our grant recipients who are serving here in the United States. Due to their work with some of the country’s most vulnerable populations, these healthcare professionals have a true front line view of how the virus is affecting populations in America’s larger cities.
Sarah Danford, a Summer 2016 grant recipient, is a family medicine nurse practitioner at Good News Community Health Center in Portland, Oregon. She recently answered some of our questions about how the COVID-19 virus is affecting her work at Good News:
MedSend: What has been your most eye-opening experience while treating patients during this crisis?
Sarah Danford: Research on COVID-19 cases has revealed to us that those at highest risk for severe illness are not just the elderly, but any patient with chronic cardiovascular disease, diabetes, lung disease, and high blood pressure. These findings were concerning to us at Good News Community Health Center, as this describes almost the entirety of our patient population. However, it is also true that controlling these chronic conditions and maintaining the overall health of our patients can decrease their risk of severe illness. While I was speaking to a patient during a telehealth visit last week, my patient explained that she was afraid her chronic medical conditions were putting her life at imminent risk in light of the COVID pandemic. I acknowledged her fear, but also explained that there are steps we can take to protect her from the most severe consequences of a possible COVID-19 infection. This helped make the patient feel empowered and motivated to work with me to develop a personalized strategy to maintain her health with regular exercise in the midst of the need for social distancing. We prayed together, and my patient expressed immense gratitude for the technology that made our telehealth visit possible and helped her remain at home, safe from new COVID exposures. I was so thankful for her prayer because in the midst of everything happening in our community, II had forgotten how incredibly blessed I am to have regular access to a computer and a phone. Reflecting on this fact, I realized that this is not only a luxury many of my patients lack, who may be struggling to remain informed of the ever-changing public health landscape, but many of my fellow healthcare workers around the globe have limited access to such technology making it significantly more difficult to educate and remain connected with their patients. Indeed, technology has enabled us to continue to care for our patients in a very tangible way while keeping them as safe as possible. Our willingness and ability to quickly adapt to these changing times help show our patients that we continue to care and love them through this. This has been an amazing opportunity to love our patients well through their fear.
MS: In what ways have you seen God show up in your encounters with patients, or in your experiences in the clinic?
SD: There has been a strong sense of community and teamwork I have recognized in our clinic since the COVID-19 outbreak. Staff and volunteers have joined towards a common goal to protect each other and our patients while living out what our mission has always been, to provide excellent physical, mental, and spiritual care to the underserved with the love of Christ. During our “tele-devotional” I was encouraged to see the faces of my coworkers who I had not seen in a while and cherished the opportunity to sit in fellowship with them. While we may feel unprepared to handle the challenges that COVID-19 has presented, we at Good News have been reminded that God regularly calls on ordinary people to demonstrate extraordinary selflessness and sacrifice, allowing something miraculous to take form, such as the transformation of an old tanning salon into the clinic we operate today. I wholeheartedly believe He will continue to enable our work and grow us to be more like Christ through this.
MS: We know that this is not over, but what has been one important takeaway for you during this time?
SD: I have seen God at work conquering fear and anxiety in myself, my family, and patients. I have personally been feeling lost and anxious about the unknowns that COVID has brought. I have felt myself perseverating over various issues, such as the risk COVID-19 poses to by husband who is a type-1 diabetic, and medical resident who has had to continue having close contact with patients during this time. I am worried about the financial future of our small community clinic, and more importantly, I am concerned about my patients who may not fully understand the risks of contracting this virus while dealing with uncontrolled diabetes and cardiovascular disease. I needed to hear Jesus’s words in the midst of my anxiety, so I turned to the Gospel according to Matthew to read the Sermon on the Mount. I read the familiar passage in Matthew 6:26 in which Jesus says, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” I have been encouraged to know that while we may have many unanswered questions at this time, we can know that the Creator loves us.
I love the words of the prophet Isaiah; so much so that my 9-month-old son shares his name! So, I was recently comforted by this beautiful passage in Isaiah 49:15-16 which reads, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.” God loves me, my family, my co-workers and my patients more than I am able to love my son. Meditating on God’s love in this season has helped curb my anxiety of the unknown of what the next day will bring.
Healthcare remains the only form of access as a Christian witness in many countries.
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