Missions on Hold as Pandemic Puts Plans on Pause by Wayne Sampson, M.D.
“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans!”
– Woody Allen.
thanniversary of the end of World War II and the founding of the United Nations, the centenary of the 19
thAmendment guaranteeing American women the right to vote, and the 50th anniversary of the New York City marathon. The Tokyo Summer Olympics was among many eagerly awaited world events that beckoned. And for our members and supporters of HERO, it was the year we looked forward to multiple festivities celebrating our 20
thanniversary of medical, humanitarian, and educational relief work in the Americas.
Our anniversary will no doubt be observed in some fashion, but will be substantially subdued due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has already exacted a heavy toll on our 2020 calendar. After many months of extensive planning, we had been all set to embark on our annual spring Medical Relief Mission to Guyana when the emerging threat of the coronavirus pandemic compelled our cancellation of those plans. We have since been similarly forced to cancel our annual Fundraising Breakfast, while plans for our August mission have been placed on hold at this time.
Though this virus is new — effectively stopping us in our tracks — we had all been hoping for a quick turnaround that would enable us to resume our “normal” routines before long. Instead, the world has been turned on its head: as of Mother’s Day this year, more than 129,000 deaths in the United States alone have been attributed to COVID-19, and more than 44.2 million Americans have been rendered jobless, raising the country’s unemployment rate to levels not seen since the Great Depression. Globally, more than 507,000 people have so far died of the disease, with the number of confirmed infections approaching 10.4 million. In short, this epidemic has been catastrophic, with just about every sector of the society adversely affected. The elderly, people with pre-existing conditions and weakened immune systems, and people of color have been disproportionately impacted. With every passing day, it becomes increasingly clear that we are in for a long battle.
As we struggle to contain this virus, guidance so far has placed a lot of emphasis on prevention, every ounce of which is worth a pound of cure. Many of us have become understandably anxious and stressed due to suspended routines, uncomfortable adaptations, and loss of control over our sense of normalcy. As a medical relief and educational organization, the majority of our HERO volunteers are also healthcare professionals. We are on the frontlines in the battle against the ravages of this virus. Every time we don our personal protective equipment at work, we are reminded that we must also save ourselves. Some of us have gotten sick but we are thankful that we were able to recover and return to fight another day.
This is an all-consuming struggle that we must win to restore confidence in our way of life. That would be the best way for us to honor those we have lost! For us, this battle cannot come to an end soon enough; our commitment to service remains stronger than ever and we look forward to picking up right where we left off as soon as possible in delivering help and restoring hope to those in need. The year may have been off to a rocky start but it is still far from over, and even with the specter of coronavirus lurking in the shadows, we hope to resume our HERO humanitarian agenda long before 2021 rolls around. Until then, let us be ever mindful of this life-saving guidance: wash your hands often, liberally disinfect frequently used surfaces, wear your masks in public spaces, carry your hand sanitizer, and remember that six feet apart may keep you from being six feet under!