Faith, Family Farm, Farm Life, RHORI

When The Floods Disrupt

Imagine a historic level of precipitation in a short period of time. An extraordinary combination that causes flooding so extreme that property is destroyed, animals are killed, even people lose their lives.

For many American’s this isn’t that hard to imagine. It was reality just last year. In fact, almost exactly a year ago, states in the U.S. Heartland faced unprecedented flooding. And throughout the rest of the spring much of the nation experienced heavy rainfalls and excessive flooding that left a record breaking portion of U.S. farmland unplanted.

For those of us who are farmers, that was a big deal. Excessive rainfall throughout the two-month period when we needed to plant our crops kept us from planting at the optimal time, and for some, from planting at all. When you look at the year as a whole, we ended up with a manageable level of precipitation. If the rainfall we received in April and May could have been spread evenly throughout all of 2019, it wouldn’t have been such a big deal for us. We could have planted without delay. And we would have had the moisture we needed later in the summer when, ironically, we were in a mild drought.

At the time, this brought about a great deal of anxiety among farmers. Of course the rain itself isn’t something to fear. But a whole bunch of rain at once caused major problems that disrupted our lives and our livelihoods.

Most of us in agriculture were happy to close the door on 2019 and optimistic that things could only get better in 2020. Now here we are in the midst of a global pandemic over a new strain of a virus.

I’m no expert on COVID-19, but I’ve tried to focus on facts in everything I have read and from what I can tell the virus itself is not something to fear. People are concerned about the unknown nature of this disease and I can understand that. However, it is not a new thing that a virus can spread easily. And it’s not a new thing that virus causes a person to be contagious before they have symptoms. And not having a treatment for a virus is not a new thing either.

Think about respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a common and very contagious virus that inflects the respiratory tract, particularly in young children. For most, RSV causes nothing more than a cold. But for a small percentage RSV can lead to life-threatening problems.

I freak out a bit every time someone touches my baby’s hands (PSA: never touch a baby’s hands which go straight into their mouth). You may be a seemingly healthy adult, but seemingly healthy adults can carry viruses that could be life-threatening to my baby. Or in other words, seemingly health adults can carry viruses that could be life-threatening to other people.

You may be seemingly healthy now. You may have COVID-19 and not even get sick. You may not fear the virus (and in my opinion, rightfully so). But you could easily carry a virus like COVID-19 to someone whose life could be threatened by it.

Just like there is no cure for RSV, there is no cure for COVID-19. For both, the virus can be life-threatening. For both, oxygen and professional care can help those who are struggling. To reiterate, although there is no cure, there is care. And that care is important.

In the last two years I’ve had two children hospitalized with RSV. Those were scary times. Really scary times. But in both situations my children were able to leave the hospital healthy after a few days of fluids, oxygen, and professional care. I shudder to think how differently those experiences would have been if we didn’t had access to that care.

From data I’ve reviewed I’ve determined COVID-19 isn’t really any more serious than a virus like RSV or influenza. And while I do think the level of panic sweeping our nation is beyond that which is justified for the virus itself, this isn’t about the virus itself.

Remember, the rain itself isn’t something to fear. But a mass amount all at once majorly disrupted the lives and livelihoods of those of us in agriculture last year. This virus itself doesn’t seem to be something to fear. But the mass amount of people infected all at once is disrupting our lives and livelihoods now.

The number of children needing hospitalization annually for RSV is at a given, manageable level. And yet, when our six-month old was very sick with RSV earlier this year and needed to be hospitalized, our local emergency room caregivers had to contact three different hospitals before they found one with an open spot in a pediatric unit where he could go. The sizeable pediatric units at the first two hospitals contacted were completely full at the time.

And when our baby was at the peak of RSV, our other three children, ages three through six, barely had a cold. They built immunity to the virus from having it earlier in their lives and it was no longer a threat to their health. Think of all the children who would be at serious risk for RSV is no one had ever had it before and all children were exposed to it at once.

And that’s the difference with COVID-19. We are all getting this new strain at once and no one has built immunity to this particular strain. All vulnerable people needing care could need care all at once. And in other countries the number of people needing that care exceeds the capacity of the hospitals.

I know what it is like to have a child’s health critically compromised by a virus. The mass cancellations and recommendations to self-quarantine aren’t for my health. It may not be for your health. It’s about the health of that vulnerable group of people for which COVID-19 can be life-threatening. Those people who are going to need care. And those people who would all need care at the same time if we all went about our daily lives.

In the same way that two of my children may not be here today without access to oxygen when they needed it when infected with RSV, there are people that will need oxygen and professional care to survive COVID-19.

The purpose of the mass cancellations and recommendations to stay home are to slow the spread of this disease to a point where our healthcare system isn’t overwhelmed with patients who need care to survive. And while I first viewed this as overreaching and unnecessary, I then started to think about the situations I’ve experienced with my own children, and knowing how critical oxygen is when needed, and personally experiencing the limited capacity of hospitals.

This is certainly causing disruptions to our lives and livelihoods. And it’s frustrating. I know.

I was scheduled to present a session at a conference in Louisville today. I was really excited for the weekend. Not only was it a chance to re-connect with friends from across the country but we were also going to make a vacation of it full of fun, family time. And this situation messed up those plans.

And while I’m disappointed our plans were disrupted, I’m also relishing in this unexpected weekend at home with nothing. You know, we don’t have to travel somewhere to have fun, family time.

I saw a social media post reminding people of all the things that aren’t cancelled… things like family time, board games, reading, prayer, devotions, playing outside, and the list goes on.

I’ve read enough theories about why or what or how coronavirus came about to make my head spin. I’m choosing to believe this is divine intervention. Last year I posted that the spring flooding was reminder to me that we are not in control. God in in control.

In the same way, I believe this is a wake-up call for us as a people. A force to get back to the basics where we put God and family first and make time for the important things.

I’ll always be a proponent of travel and life experiences. But the reality is we don’t have to go all the places all the time. We don’t have to do all the things all the time. We don’t have to be busy out of our minds all the time.

Going less, doing less, being less busy can be wonderful.

We can panic over it. We can complain about it. We can theorize about it.

Or we can just turn it into an unexpected blessing and go with it.

That’s what we’re doing as we stay home with our pajamas on, snuggling and watching movies, playing games that have been untouched a long time, and baking an unhealthy amount of cookies.

That’s the best fun, family time I can imagine right now.

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