A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, October 24, 2014
A Helper and Servant, in a Big Way—My Friend Jim (Feature Friday!)
Ebola crisis. When I say that, what happens inside? Do you get anxious? Afraid? Do you know much about Ebola? Do you know anyone who is actively working with the medical personnel concerned with Ebola, in areas affected by that particular disease? I do. My friend Jim—Dr. James Mcauley, medical officer with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—is stationed in Lusaka, Zambia, along with his wife and part of his family. (Jim and Amy’s younger son was in the same grade as my son—we all knew one another from church in Evanston.)
Jim has been stationed in Africa for three years. Formerly an infectious disease physician at Rush University Medical Center here in Chicago, he is now doing life-saving work managing and supervising medical personnel in a large swath of Africa. Here’s a snapshot of what his day-to-day work looks like, in his own words.
“Our team of 60+ has been working flat out trying to stop this epidemic here in Sierra Leone, and morale is always an issue. I visited four of our seven district teams in the last 48 hours – bringing supplies and listening. [I’m thinking of] two – discussing infection control with the nurse in charge – part of our roving team and have had a particularly rough road. They needed to stop a health worker training due to hostile local villagers who believe we have brought Ebola to their communities. Others have had to deal with the stress of having a cold or diarrhea and wonder if it might be Ebola. Although our teams avoid contact with Ebola patients, it is always a concern. I have lost a lot of sleep worrying about my team.”
One other important thing about Jim? He and I were in seminary at the same time. Yes, he attended seminary part-time while holding his position as infectious disease doctor—full-time. He and I were in the same Reformed Tradition class. We sat at the back of the room, and made joking and snarky comments to each other. (Yes, I was that kind of student.) He is now ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA), and has that qualification, too. So, when I read that he is concerned for his team, I know he and his wife Amy (also a physician—a pediatrician) are praying for the workers on the field.
More from Jim: “Saw first hand the Ebola Holding Units where people are isolated while diagnostic tests are done – about half end up positive and are moved to an Ebola Treatment Center, where half die. [I] visited two quarantined villages, and participated in several calls with the US. CDC staff do not enter Ebola Treatment Centers or any home where an Ebola patient might be housed. So we kept our distance…. I think the bags of Snickers I left with my teams held the Dementors at bay for another day…. Pray, resist the urge to call for US isolation, donate (CDC Foundation has been amazing), and consider volunteering to help our neighbors in Africa.”
Jim is reporting from the field, from where the disease is affecting countless people, every day. Not only the people who were infected, but also their families. Their friends. The people who lived next door, or down the street. And what about those who were afraid to attend school? To go to shops? To go to offices? All because of the fear and anxiety that comes from Ebola.
This is what Jim has to say about that: “I started to think – for such a contagious disease in such crowded impoverished settings, why don’t more people die? Why did ‘only’ half of the people who lived in the house I visited yesterday get sick? Why did ‘only’ 10% of the village die? So much we don’t yet understand. I am starting to think of ways to reach out to the faith based health worker groups – who better to stand in the gap and demonstrate to the world what it means to love God and love my neighbor. Wouldn’t it be great if in a few years when the world looks back on this epidemic they say, ‘Ah, but the people of God stood fast and demonstrated real love!’”
This is my hope and prayer, too, Jim. I pray that you and Amy will demonstrate God’s love in your actions, too. God’s blessings on your work and service. And, thanks for the permission to share your story!
Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.