The Human Element Has Been Lost

I want help you, but I won’t. These words kept playing over and over in my head today, while I was driving. I recall many years ago, when I responded to a 911 call. It was early Friday evening, and my wife and I just got into bed with some dinner. We were hoping for a relaxing start to the weekend, but my pager went off a series of times. While I wasn’t on call, I finally called in after the 3rd page. A former client of mine was in a bad way, so I kissed my wife, and was off to see him. Long story short, I was out most of the evening, in a place that was unsafe. {Usually when I respond to calls like this, there is a QRF/Quick Reaction Force notified and in the area of where I am going.} But on this particular call, I was on my own. While I was able to eventually get my client to the hospital, I was threatened. There was a gun. And it could have ended badly.

When I returned home the following day, I told my new wife what had happened. She said, “You’re married now. You cannot do that.” And she was right. I was so used to responding, that I never had to think about my consequences affecting others. So today I am driving in my car, in a state that has been in lock down for the past month. While I’m heading back to the office after an early morning appointment, I see a homeless man on the side of the road, holding a sign asking for assistance. I drive past him and pull in a parking lot. As my day job is outreach, I go into my trunk to put together a bag of food and clothes. I then proceed to put on my PPE {Personal Protective Equipment} and then drive back to him. By the time I got back there, he was gone.

Right now our Health Departments are closed. Our Crisis Response Teams are closed. It’s a new world and I am trying to honor my profession and family obligations at the same time. As a younger unattached man, I ran into battle. As a older man with family counting on me, I must pause. With a disabled wife, if I go down, game over for the both of us. So, I am slow to respond, and limited on what I can do.

Thinking of those words “I want to help you, but I won’t” is now a reality. It’s not that I won’t help, but it will be different. I mentioned how the Health Departments are closed, and the Crisis Response Teams are not responding. I have also noticed how some medical practices are only doing tele-medicine now. I flash back to the late 80’s and early 90’s when I first started working with HIV/AIDS. Healthcare professionals quitting their jobs because they were scared of the virus. I remember being mad at them. Today, I totally understand. They were trying to protect their famlies. We have to help in a way that makes sense to us.

When responding to a crisis scenario, the first rule is make sure that the environment is safe. An example would be, don’t send paramedics into an active shooter scene. Once the threat has been suspended, then you can triage and treat the wounded. But today, with COVID-19, no environment is really deemed safe. But people still need help. And it will be slow going.

As I move forward in my profession, I can honestly say that this transition has been hard. Not so much because of fear. But because of the way I now interact with a hurting person. I have to unlearn 35 years of muscle memory. The social distancing detracts from my conversation with a hurting soul. The hug, the hand on the shoulder are now a thing of the past. It has become mechanical, all but taking the humanity out of it.

So today, I want to help. I will help. I’m just sorry that the human element has been lost.

I am a retired crisis counselor of 20 years, and have spent the last decade working as both a Life Coach and Hypnotherapist.