Life and love in the age of Ebola.
The first confirmed case of Ebola in New York City was reported last night. Dr. Craig Spencer was taken from his apartment to Belleview Hospital with a high fever and other complaints, including gastrointestinal distress, symptoms consistent with the disease. Preliminary testing confirmed Dr. Craig’s diagnosis. Craig, a member of Doctors without Borders, had returned October 17 from Western Africa where he had been helping to control the outbreak which has to this point killed thousands.
He cleared the cursory health inspection upon landing and was requested to minimize his exposure to others, and to monitor his temperature and other vitals.
Early this week, the doctor began to feel “sluggish”, and so decided to get out of his uptown apartment and thinking that perhaps getting out and about might address his lethargic condition.
And what better way to get the blood (and other bodily fluids) flowing than a frame or two of bowling. And so, Craig hit the subway and headed for The Gutter, a bowling alley in Williamsburg in Brooklyn.
Naturally, quite a few people are upset with Dr. Craig for not isolating himself until he was sure no symptoms would develop. Now it’s clear, he didn‘t wait long enough.
What is rankling New Yorkers is a statement yesterday from Dr. Mary Bassett, head of NYC’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, in which she stated that Dr. Craig did try to isolate himself.
If sharing his apartment with his girlfriend, riding the subway and trying for the 7-10 split defines “isolation”. Dr. Craig is to be commended for his desire to deal with suffering among the poor in other parts of the world.
But at what cost to others?
Last night, I emceed a fundraiser for Chrysalis Center, a wonderful organization based in the old Sealtest Dairy on Homestead Ave. in the North End of Hartford. Chrysalis runs a food pantry, develops housing for homeless vets and others dealing with drug and mental problems, provides cutting-edge job training, and so much more.
But Chrysalis is not a giveaway program. Clients are expected to pay their way, just as they will once the problems they face are gone. They do so by using the job skills they acquire, and with the help of counselors, volunteers and each other, are transformed into contributors to society.
So yes, it’s a wonderful thing to travel the world in an effort to help others, but the fact is, Dr. Craig could have found plenty of need within several miles of his apartment.
There are plenty of medically under-served people just about anywhere, even on Manhattan. An old saying suggested that “charity begins at home”.
Perhaps Doctor Craig hadn’t heard that one.