EbolaGate 2014: What Role Should Kindness Play?

This is a post by Kandice.

For those of you who don’t know, I live in Dallas. And the hospital we’ve used for the last two decades is Texas Health Presbyterian, which is where Thomas Duncan (patient zero) for Ebola in the United States was treated before he passed away.

As you might imagine, we are at the epicenter for EbolaGate 2014. It’s impossible to avoid the onslaught of news stories, breaking news alerts, live reporting of CDC conference calls and clips from Congressional hearings.

When you watch the news or read stories online, it’s somewhere far away from you. For us? It’s our back yard. Presbyterian Hospital? Our hospital. A group of doctors interviewed by our local news station yesterday, trying to communicate to their patients that it’s safe to come see them, they are in a totally separate building from the ICU and there is no overlap in nursing and support staff? My OBGYN. The apartments the two nurses live in? I’ve Been There Before. The doctor I had an appointment to see this week? At Presbyterian. The place I’m having a CT scan next week? Presbyterian.

Town Hall

My Facebook feed is busy right now. From a friend of mine this morning (click to bigify):

Family on Cruise Ship

Some back and forth commentary on one of my friend’s posts about the second nurse getting on a plane:

FB Ebola Comments

There’s no lack of anger in Dallas. No lack of fear. There is, however, a lack of confidence. There’s skepticism. And, across the country, fingers are being pointed all over the place. I’ve seen more than one reference to Forrest Gump. Stupid is as stupid does.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to adding my voice to the Facebook chorus, accusing people of stupidity and throwing around my opinion about the recklessness with which people, who were exposed to patient zero or his belongings, have made decisions. When they walk into a local medical clinic or get on a commercial airplane, even with pre-approval from the CDC (what???), potentially impacting hundreds, even thousands, of other people, I am incredulous. Even someone as intelligent and knowledgeable as Dr. Nancy Snyderman has exhibited, in my opinion, a complete lack of judgment by breaking quarantine.

In the midst of all of this, what role does kindness play? Should it excuse bad decision making? Should kindness be thrown out the window when dealing with a public health concern like Ebola? Should we show compassion and grace to those who have sincere fears that we think are ridiculous? I don’t have the answers. What do you think?

I think we need to know what went wrong, so the same mistakes are not made again. I think people or organizations need to take responsibility for their failings. I think people need to have accountability for good judgment.

But you know what? I’ve seen kindness, compassion and support in this situation, too.

Dr. Kent Brantly has donated blood plasma containing antibodies his body developed as a result of fighting Ebola to three patients so far. (Unfortunately, his blood type was incompatible with Mr. Duncan.)

And when the first nurse, Nina Pham, became ill, Dallas Animal Services and Adoption Center stepped up, vowing to take care of her dog, Bentley. People were concerned that this sweet boy would be euthanized like a dog of an ebola patient in Spain was. Instead, Bentley is being cared for until Nina can collect him and, hopefully, move on.


I don’t know Nina, but I know people who do know her. It’s very six degrees of separation around here. This young lady dedicated herself to taking care of the weakest and most vulnerable of our population, and now she finds herself in that category. She took care of Mr. Duncan when he was too sick to care for himself. And we should do what we can to take care of her.

She has now been moved to Maryland, but before she left, she was cheered on by her colleagues:

And our journalists are sending her messages like this:

Nina Pham Lift Up

I’m not sure what role kindness should play in this situation, but I know kindness when I see it. How’s that saying go? Be the change you want to see in the world. Before I launch a rant, I can make sure I pause and consider whether I have all of the facts. I can show compassion and pray for those fighting ebola and for the front line healthcare workers.

I want doctors, hospitals, the CDC and the government to shoot straight with us. I want journalists to engage in ethical reporting. But those are things I can’t control.

The things I can control? Educating myself about the disease so I can take appropriate precautions for me and my family. And showing kindness and compassion and grace to others. That I can do.