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The Wide Angle: Putting a mind at ease just by talking

Behind the stories of cats, iffy gardening skills and some home brewing, I’m a concerned individual.

This is my first pandemic and like so many others, I’m concerned I will come down with it, my girlfriend will come down with it or any number of friends and family will come down with it.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with being concerned. In fact, I’m starting to understand the new normal surrounding it all, even if I don’t like it one bit.

And like so many I will continue to go to work until any number of things will happen, paying mind to take steps to protect myself and others around me. This job is inevitably what I do for a living. Life will stop, news will not.

But, if I’m to be honest, I don’t particularly like it all the time. I don’t like the nervousness I feel, either from the idea of catching this coronavirus myself or inadvertently giving it to others.

Full disclosure: I’m not sick, but what’s scary is that I can’t guarantee I won’t be and I can’t guarantee that in the end, I won’t suffer from it.

Now mind you, I don’t live in absolute fear, huddle up with my family and cats, but I think it’s irresponsible if you don’t show something of a concern in times like this.

There is a lot on everybody’s minds these days and I’m no different, so when I got the call from Rick Thiesse Tuesday, I groaned a little bit.

First and foremost, I love Rick. He laughes at my jokes, which unfunny people don’t seem to do. He’s a delightful human being and a lot of fun to talk with when we meet for news events and so it should be said that I would have groaned if Joe Biden’s people had called wanting a sit-down.

It’s just a really busy time.

It was good news, however, because he was letting me know that Mayo Clinic was extending its drive-thru COVID-19 testing and was inviting me down to cover its establishment in Austin.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect. A part of me thought there would be people getting tested under a blanket of seriousness representative of what COVID-19 is doing to our country.

I found a little bit of that. Dr. Robert Bonacci, MD, and the staff were very upfront about how the testing would work, but really they provided more than that and perhaps they don’t know it.

There was a lightness to the work ahead of them. I don’t know if its representative of those in healthcare in the rest of the world and surely they weren’t as busy at that moment as doctors and nurses in Italy, but they were still working in the shadow of COVID-19’s threat.

I semi-expected a somber situation because the national — and indeed the international — situation required it.

What I found, however, was people willing to smile and laugh in the midst of a dire situation that hasn’t yet reached us and when they were able to be at that point, I found myself laughing and smiling as well.

I should explain that when I say there was a lightness to it, that doesn’t mean they were taking light of the situation. There is a vast difference. What I mean is for a short period of time there was normalcy.

In some ways it was somewhat surreal because everything has been so serious over the past days and weeks. But, for a little while anyway, I was able to cover a story without any kind of dread, instead pushing it to the back of my mind.

It was like any Tuesday really.

I know these medical professionals are still thinking about the situation. They are going to be at risk as they, along with EMTs, firefighters and police officers, are going to be the first to respond to medical situations as they arise.

There’s a seriousness to this that seems taxing to me, yet it is their expectation; however, on this day they were able to smile and laugh and I found myself being put at ease almost immediately.

It was reassuring.

I’m not going to be on the front line for this, not like them. I will report on it from a distance, but that is all, so I won’t know personally what they endure as they deal with both the certainties and uncertainties. But what I do know is in that instant, they disarmed me. With their attitudes and jovial nature they took away any unease I had of coming down with COVID-19 or anybody I love coming down with it.

For a brief moment, no more than 15 minutes long, I was simply talking with other people. Enjoying their company and perhaps more than any other time in life, I understood the strength it takes to be a doctor or nurse.

When all this is said and done — and it will be said and done — I don’t think I will forget this one moment, on a Tuesday morning in March, when a medical staff healed a part of me when I wasn’t even sick.