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This Is No Ordinary Time We Are In

These words, spoken by Eleanor Roosevelt just before World War II, describe the time we are in right now. I see it in the eyes of the young clerks at our local convenience store, I see it in the empty shelves of toilet paper at the grocery, I hear it from owners of restaurants laying off staff.

We have heard about the dangerous and very contagious coronavirus, and that quarantine will help us “flatten the infection curve.” Though we in Chautauqua County may have been spared the worst, right now the curve in the United States looks a lot more like the one in Italy (bad) than the one in South Korea (better.)

What can I do? I am 79 years old and pushing 80. The one thing I do know is that it is going to be the next generation who will have to continue to confront the next pandemics. I also know that because of my age and health history, I am more apt to get sick from this than younger people.

So, what happens if I get sick, admitted to UPMC Chautauqua and need a ventilator? The answer is, “first come, first serve.” There are only a couple of dozen in all of Chautauqua County. If I get there quick enough, maybe I can be hooked up to one.

But, should I be? What if my neighbor who has dependent children comes in a half-hour later than me… should I have a priority over him for the last ventilator just because I got there first? (This is the kind of theoretical/theological question we debated when I was a student at Houghton College and then at Evangelical Theological Seminary, but it is theoretical no longer–it is real and with us.)

In the above situation, I think the answer as to whether or not I should be hooked up to a ventilator is clearly “No.” I have lived a good life, my kids are grown, my life expectancy is short… and it should be my neighbor with kids at home who should get the ventilator. This is not the same issue that I have already addressed about “no extraordinary measures” to be used when I am dying. The use of ventilators is accepted medical protocol for all patients with severe pneumonia and respiratory failure–the endgame of coronavirus. But what if there are not enough of them?

Therefore, in light these unprecedented times, I have made a written declaration whereby I waive any priorities in being hooked-up to a ventilator, and may be disconnected from one if already connected if others, especially those with dependent children or who have a better chance of recovery, need one.

Should we burden doctors and emergency room staff already overwhelmed with the sick, the decision of who does and who doesn’t get a ventilator? I think not. At least, they should not have to worry about me.

So, I am going to act now to take that decision from their hands. A ventilator? Maybe for me, but only if those with dependent children or those who have a better chance of recovering come first. To wit: “Hallelujah and Amen.” I feel better already. Maybe I will be accused of trying to play God… but, being a life-long Christian (and even one with a seminary degree!), I don’t think God is going to argue with the decision.

Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.

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