Dear CDC: Please Don’t Tell Me Not To Panic About Ebola

by Mary Katherine
Originally Published: 

My name is Mary Katherine.

I have no medical training, no Health Sciences degree. I’ve never drawn blood, changed a bedpan, or tended a wound. My uniform does not consist of scrubs or a white coat.

In fact, this morning I write you in pajamas while divvying waffle on to a highchair.

No, I am not a nurse, scrub tech, paramedic, or physician. But many of my family and friends are. And while my education may be humble, my love for them is not.

CDC, that is why I write you today: To ask you, on behalf of America’s Medical Family…

Don’t tell me not to panic.

When my loved ones are on the front lines, potentially vulnerable to a virus with a 70% fatality rate, don’t tell me not to panic.

When there is speculation that Ebola might be airborne, and the WHO projects approximately 7,000 more African cases per week, don’t tell me not to panic.

And when this highly fatal disease boards a commercial jet and flies across the country….your calls for calm seem disconnected, disingenuous and, quite frankly, disrespectful.

But what do I know? I’m not a medical professional!

I know that patients lie. I know that asymptomatic is a highly unreliable term. I know that protocol is one thing, and reality is often another. And I know that medical professionals are people.

People who get tired and make mistakes.

There are many elements to a public health crisis. Your scientists are well versed in this, I know. Epidemiology, quarantine, the ethics of experimental treatments…you have a lot to consider.

But there is one element you have failed miserably in considering: the human element.

Sure, the risk might be small. But there is one. And you cannot simultaneously tell me that vaccinating against polio is imperative…but worrying about Ebola is ridiculous.

CDC, I believe in your scientists. I rely on their collective expertise for guidance. But as an organization, your humanity could use a little work.

Don’t tell me not to panic. That’s not your job.

Your job is to reduce my panic. Use your research to inform and support our loved ones in the medical field. Leverage your resources to protect them.

Look, I know you are busy. But before we are done, I want you to meet somebody.

This is Dr. Ian Backstrom. He is a published research scientist, a diligent worker, and a tireless patient advocate.

He is also my husband, my best friend, and an incredible father to our child.

I realize that Ebola isn’t his most immediate danger. He and his peers deal with deadly, communicable diseases on a daily basis. And now two American healthcare workers have Ebola.

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And that is why, CDC, I ask you one final time:

Don’t tell me not to panic.

You have better things to do with your words and your time. Use your brains, energy, and resources to SUPPORT THE SCRUBS. Make sure each hospital is equipped to handle these patients–with a strategy, a protocol, and better barriers during treatment. That should keep you pretty darn busy.

And in the meantime, let us worry.

We worry because we care. And we care because we love these people.


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