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African American Healthcare Workers on the Frontline

She’s going to be fine.” These thoughts keep my sanity.

We call it the “Momvine” – information (mainly gossip) from our parents and the name of our family text group. The “Momvine” text group is hilarious, filled with jokes, funny pictures, emojis, video of the kids (the 2-legged and 4-legged kind), and the silliness that only family members share. Our “Momvine” changed two days ago when my sister shared a photo of herself in a hazmat suit, looking like she was a “badass” from some epic science fiction movie headed to the front lines. She had a N95 mask, but no face shield. Why? There aren’t enough of them. They were running out and someone had stolen many of them. This isn’t a movie. This was real and this shouldn’t be happening.

Our precious younger sister, SM Wells, MD is a physician working in a hospital in Houston, Texas during the Coronavirus epidemic. Today, as I write this, Dr. Wells is going into rooms to see patients suffering from COVID19 without proper personal equipment (PPE). Medical professionals are trained to provide care to vulnerable, sick, and contagious patients wearing a mask and face shield. This equipment helps stop the spread of the virus to doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers providing care. Dr. Wells, along with thousands of other doctors across the country were instructed to reuse the PPE, something that is outside of proper medical guidelines.

African American physicians practice medicine all over the country. Many located in underserved areas, are working to keep patients safe and helping them recover from illnesses. Inequities are something that African American healthcare workers have had to historically endure and is something that we are quite familiar. Black medical professionals (doctors, nurses, aides and others) have provided care and comfort, often without adequate medical supplies and resources. Coronavirus has shined a light on what some African Americans have lived with for decades, and now what non-African Americans are seeing for themselves.

We’ve all heard the rallying cry, “Help them, help you”.

If you want to help doctors like my sister and other healthcare providers, there are somethings you can do to make a difference. 1) Stop smoking – now! COVID-19 attacks your lungs and respiratory system. If you smoke, your lungs are not as healthy as they can be. When you stop smoking, you give your body a chance to start to heal. Quit and quit now. 2) Stay home (especially if you don’t feel well) and wash your hands, often. The more people who can stay well by not getting sick, the less people show up in hospitals and clinics. 3) Take a moment to write or call your elected officials asking them to take care of al

l healthcare workers by making sure they get the PPEs that they need, NOW!

Our family got to work – looking to see where we could get supplies to our sister. We looked on eBay, Amazon, and other online medical supply stores. We read articles about how to 3D print face shields. We debated how can we make masks that are effective enough to keep out the virus and send them to her so she will stay healthy. Anything. The equipment we wanted to order would take too long to get to her, a week at best. Finally, our brother ordered face shields from a supplier in China. She should get them in 3 weeks. She needs them now.

We are so proud of Dr. SM Wells and how hard she has had to work to become the woman she is; a mom, wife, sister, daughter, and our family hero. Not just because she is a physician, but like so many other medical professionals across the country, she chooses to walk into her patients’ rooms without proper PPEs, knowing the risks. She doesn’t deserve this. No healthcare provider does. We don’t deserve this. No family does.

They seem to forget there is a cause for every ailment, and that it may be in their power to remove it.”

Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler, the Nation’s First African American Female Physician