Numbers matter, but remember there are people behind these numbers

Our country has been obsessed with numbers since the pandemic arrived in the United States three months ago. We focused intently on how many people tested positive for COVID-19, how many were hospitalized, how many were in the intensive care unit, how many were on a ventilator and how many people passed away. We also looked at trends in graphs and charts to gauge when the surge of patients would occur, hoping it would pass as soon as possible.

These numbers matter when managing this deadly infection. As a person with a math degree, I admit I enjoy looking at numbers. And for many of you, it probably pains you to know someone studied math on purpose.

As of now, all the numbers show that we are in a much better place than we thought we would be. The preparation and mobilization of resources and actions by the state and the county made a difference. Meritus Health has conducted more than 12,000 COVID-19 tests, and our COVID-19 positive rate is 5%, which is dramatically lower than the state average and that of every major metropolitan area. This is good news and as we appropriately reopen, we continue to closely monitor the key indicators to make sure there are no outbreaks or sudden spikes.

But behind these numbers, there are people. Because of our health care heroes, Meritus Medical Center has now discharged more than 70 COVID-19 positive patients to the comfort of their homes — a true testament to the commitment of our caring doctors, nurses, therapists, techs, environmental services staff, nutrition services employees and so many others who make a difference in the lives of our community.

Nine people, unfortunately, have passed away at Meritus Medical Center from COVID-19. Each of these nine has a life story we should remember. I recently spoke to family members of two of them. I am grateful they talked with me and are allowing me to share their personal stories.

I had the chance to speak to the daughter of a woman who passed away in April with COVID-19. She spoke fondly about her mom — an organist and choir director for adults and youths at her church. Her mom’s time in the hospital was short and included being on a ventilator. What struck me most in her story is how hard it was to say goodbye in this environment with this virus. The restrictions we have in place for the safety of staff and visitors only offered two family members that opportunity for this patient. And graveside services were limited to 10 people. It is difficult to imagine what it is like for families to have the lessened ability to cherish someone’s life during this time. For a mom who fought breast cancer twice in the last two years and loved to embroider, we feel for the family who is dealing with loss in this challenging climate.

I also had the opportunity to talk to Amanda, the daughter of Nancy Boyer, the second person who died at Meritus Medical Center in April with COVID-19. Nancy’s life experience is one that any of us would be proud to call our own. She was a Sunday school teacher, chosen for the first elected school board in Washington County and an active community and civic citizen in so many organizations. Amanda shared with me that “she was a nifty lady and sharp as a tack at 90.” Her family thought there was no way she could have COVID-19 since they were so rigid in all their protocols, but still she got this “evil, wicked, insidious virus.” Amanda spoke glowingly about her mom, who felt her purpose in life was to help other people and to give back to the community. She loved to learn for the sake of learning. Nancy was devout to her church, and life revolved around her children. Amanda noted that she had a heart of gold and always spoke out in the name of justice. I could hear in Amanda’s voice, the joy, the pride and the emotion for her mom and what she gave to her family and our community.

As a statistic, these represent two deaths in our community impacted by COVID-19. More importantly, these were two human beings who gave to our society, cared for others, were cared for by others and will always be more than numbers.

A disease that has no cure and no medical prevention is still present today in our community. We must stay vigilant and do all the important things that make a difference, including social distancing, masking and good hand-washing. As we move forward and appropriately celebrate what we have accomplished to flatten the curve, let’s remember the people behind the numbers who did not make it through the pandemic — a nifty lady and a choir director — as well as our Meritus Health Care Heroes who took compassionate care of them, as they would for their own families.