Greetings Further Shore Friends,
Despite dry conditions, spring in northern Arizona has been beautiful. We are enjoying the pastel flowering trees and vibrant greenery bursting forth from the aspens. Daffodils are now bowing their heads to make room for the penstemons, irises, and columbine. I’m thinking about the seeds I planted in my March News Brief for personal wellness; grateful to be feeling content and well. Thanks to those who have written sharing their own spring intentions. Keep up the cultivation of those positive actions and practices! The last couple of weeks has delivered idyllic weather days, fragrant and still; as well as days when the wind is howling, and the dust is swirling. This has me thinking about and preparing for the potential of wildfire.
In mid-April the combination of extreme draught conditions and high winds gave way to the Flagstaff Tunnel Wildfire. During the fires’ first days, thousands of people and animals were evacuated as the blaze raced through neighborhoods and jumped a four-lane highway. The fire was not in my immediate neighborhood, but its impact was felt by everyone in the area. Several structures were lost including 30 homes, over 20 outbuildings, and much of the land within Sunset Crate National Monument. Coconino County provides information about how to donate or volunteer in the Tunnel Fire Recovery. Meanwhile, Coconino National Forest Service will implement Stage 2 Fire Restrictions on May 26th. Now for the News:
- I’ve been working on my next Wellness ABC blog post, “O” is for Organization. Stay tuned for that!
- Pandemic Reflections – I continue to research and share about COVID-19 in support of those who confide in me about what they and their loved ones are going through; to bring awareness about the latest pandemic news; and to share insights from those who are grieving loss of loved ones due to the virus. Think on these things:
- The Grieving: Over one million deaths attributed to COVID-19 in the USA; likely more due to undercounting. For every death it is estimated that at least nine survivors are grieving. To those heavy hearts, the concept of getting back to pre-pandemic reality is not likely or easy as grief is still acute, and reminders of the pandemic are evident in many ways. So many died alone and without memorial services or funerals that help the bereaved to begin healing. It is never too late or a sign of weakness to honor their lives. Light a candle, write a eulogy or poem to share with family and friends, plant a tree, have a formal or informal Zoom celebration of life, or memorialize loved ones lost in some other special way. It can help to heal your own heart to do so.
- The Age Factor: As I mentioned in my February News Brief, there are millions of people in our country who, despite vaccines, boosters, and new treatment protocols, are still vulnerable to the more horrible effects of this virus. I have learned that for some people (despite vaccine status being up to date) illness that takes weeks to recover, hospitalization, ventilation, and death continues. Not all that bad news is for those over 65. People of all ages have faced serious illness and died from the virus. Since it is a novel virus, the many factors needed to determine vulnerability are still under review. No matter how old or young you are, if you think you might be vulnerable to the worst aspects of the virus, consult with your doctor and make choices accordingly.
- Milder for All?: The concept that new variants offer milder infection does not apply to everyone, especially those with pre-existing conditions, are immune-compromised, or undergoing cancer treatment. The idea that the virus is mutating to be less deadly is not yet proven via the scientific method, and epidemiologists remain ever watchful of new variants that may pose another crippling spike in hospitalizations. The idea that it’s safe to “move on from COVID-19” doesn’t apply to everyone. As epidemiologist, Dr. Michael Osterholm stated recently, “we may be done with the virus, but the virus is not done with us.” He recommends that medically vulnerable folks continue their safety measures.
- Isolation: Families and friends are finding their footing in this new phase of the pandemic. Human mental, emotional, and social lives depend on connection and interactions with others. While the vast majority is setting the tone with maskless travel, dining inside, and going to concerts, the minority (of medically vulnerable) may experience feelings of isolation or loneliness. This can lead to increased anxiety and depression. The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMT) provides some resources for coping with covid related limitations.
- Compassion and Respect: The public need for “normalcy” and activities of pre-pandemic life is understandable. For healthy folks who feel immune-confident (from vaccine protection or having had the virus or both), getting back out there is a top priority. Those who cannot participate in “normal” life due to pandemic concerns can and do seek out other ways to have those needs for connection met, but sometimes it is awkward and difficult for everyone. If you are among the medically vulnerable, try to state safety needs and requests in a kind, clear way to those who may not share those concerns. Be respectful of their re-entry choices, even if you cannot join in. For those who are moving about life more freely, if someone in your circle is medically vulnerable, please practice patience, compassion, and respect as they may need to continue with safety protocols such as masking, social distancing, testing prior to gathering or declining travel invitations.
- Nursing Shortage: Infections are on the rise, as are hospitalizations, albeit more slowly than in previous waves. Overwhelming hospitals with covid patients for the past two years has made it more difficult to obtain adequate care for other medical conditions and emergency situations. Nurses, doctors, and other medical professionals are burned out. One survey of 2,500 registered nurses reports that two thirds (65%) experienced verbal and/or physical assault by patients and/or family members in the last year. Please be kind to your medical team and remember to thank those front line workers. They, like all of us, are doing their best in stressful times.
- Community Spread: Health care professionals across the country are seeing a lot of positive covid tests and other “covid-like illness” such as bronchitis and sinus infections that take weeks to clear. Cases are being undercounted due to home testing, so it is difficult to know from local data about how each community is doing other than watching the hospitalization numbers (which should be available with your county health department). People keep telling me that “everyone they know has covid” so community spread is happening in a lot of places from coast to coast. Remember that most “normal” viruses (like a cold) spread 1 to 2 days before symptoms appear. During a cold, it’s normal to be symptomatic and possibly contagious for up to 14 days. COVID-19 researchers estimate that people who get infected can spread it to others 2 to 14 days before symptoms start and sometimes symptoms never start. As well, the at-home test is often negative, then a PCR test is positive. Confounding! The point is if you are vulnerable, be aware and alert; take precautions as you need to.
- Recovering: If you had COVID-19 and recovered normally, that is terrific news! Be aware that it is possible to be infected more than once, so it is not clear how long immunity lasts after infection and recovery. It is possible to catch a different variant after recovery. Remember to take measures to keep your vulnerable loved ones safe while you are ill and during recovery. Take adequate healing time to strengthen your own immune system with healthy food, rest, exercise, and other practices that support your biology and psychological well-being. Check out the ABC’s for Living Well blog for some strategies for living well during stressful times. If you take Paxlovid to treat COVID-19 infection, you should know about side effects and possible rebound of symptoms.
- Long Covid: Sometimes, weeks or months after normal recovery, people develop Long Covid, a condition that now has a diagnostic code with a wide array of symptoms, including cardio-vascular injury, neural and cognitive impairment. Recent studies indicate that 1 in 4 COVID-19 survivors are affected with Long Covid despite the severity or mildness of the infection. Those who were hospitalized with COVID-19 and medically vulnerable at higher risk for Long Covid. Survivor Corps is a nonprofit bringing awareness and support to Long Haulers.
- It’s Fire Season in the West – Wildfire preparedness measures now apply to many states including Mississippi, Kansas, and Missouri. New Mexico is being hit particularly hard. There are thousands of folks under evacuation orders or in “SET” status. You can donate to support New Mexico evacuees here. Wildfire danger has long existed for friends living in the western United States. The stoics teach us to hope for the best and prepare for the worst! In that spirit, here are tips to help you to be fire ready:
- Pay attention to Fire Weather and Red Flag warnings; be aware of your neighborhood’s READY, SET, GO status.
- Keep enough gas in your vehicles to evacuate safely without having to find a gas station. Lines at the pumps can get very long in emergencies!
- Have a strategic evacuation plan, including a meeting place in case you and your loved ones get separated.
- Have “go bags” at the ready. The go bag should have basic personal need items such as clothing, nonperishable food, water, flashlight, first aid kit, hygiene supplies, etc. (Note: go bags truly make sense for most of us as climate change related extreme weather events such as tornadoes, hurricanes, derechos, and flooding are happening with more frequency.)
- If you must be away from home during fire season, have evacuation instructions written for your pet sitter, house sitter, or neighbors keeping watch.
- Have the 6 P’s at the ready (people/pets; prescriptions; paperwork; priceless items; personal computer; plastic)
- Program update: Are you feeling stressed out? Emotional or mental stress can give way to pain cycles and bodily dis-ease. Caregivers are especially vulnerable to compassion fatigue and accompanying pain cycles. One-hour consults via Zoom are available by appointment to help you to identify and decrease stressful triggers; develop a wellness practice; and establish an accountability partnership. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to make an appointment.
- Movies that Move Us: In Elizabethtown, director Cameron Crow takes us on a beautiful journey from California to Kentucky and then some with Drew Taylor (Orlando Bloom) who is charged with arranging his father’s funeral. While enroute, Drew meets perky flight attendant, Clair Colburn (Kirsten Dunst), who provides him with advice about driving in Louisville. The movie is filled with poignant reflections about family, roots, love, and loss. An unforgettable highlight is Drew’s father’s memorial service. Ride along with Drew on a road trip that will transform old wounds and awaken his heart. Grab the popcorn and enjoy!
- Quote of the month: Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive. ~ H.H. Dalai Lama
In closing, this post was delayed as I heard the news about the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas. The horrific death toll including children and teachers just after the shooting in Buffalo, New York left me without words. But words must be spoken, and who to do this with more grace at this time, than Amanda Gorman? May we rise to meet this tragedy with civilized dialog and practical action toward a more peaceful nation. May all beings be safe, well, happy, and content.