Morris: Fear of the virus competes with fear of not working

By , Guest Columnist Updated: March 14, 2020 4:05 AM CT | Published: March 14, 2020 4:05 AM CT
G. Scott Morris
Guest Columnist

G. Scott Morris

The Rev. Dr. G. Scott Morris, M.D., is founder and chief executive officer of Church Health.

Editor’s note: Due to the serious public health implications associated with COVID-19, The Daily Memphian is making our coronavirus coverage accessible to all readers — no subscription needed.

Jack was worried he might have coronavirus. For two weeks he had been coughing, feeling tired and struggling to breathe. A handyman by trade, Jack has to work to care for his family.

There must be some medicine the doctor can give me to get me back on my feet, he thought. So he did what he never does: He went to the doctor seeking help.

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When I met him, I knew he was sick. He had a hacking cough, and he looked ill. When I listened to his lungs, they were full of fluid. This wasn’t good, so I did a chest X-ray.

The results were, unfortunately, just what I expected. In his right lung was not coronavirus, but lung cancer.

Had Jack had coronavirus, there would be a 1% chance, or so we are told, that he could die. With squamous cell lung cancer, there is a 16% chance he will be alive in five years.

<strong>G. Scott Morris</strong>

G. Scott Morris

I didn’t have a pill that would make Jack feel better, as he’d hoped. Thankfully, at Church Health, we do have surgeons and oncologists who will volunteer their time to give Jack the care he needs, but it is very much an uphill battle.

Like Jack, our working but uninsured patients still come for treatment of their diabetes and heart disease. Broken bones and strokes still happen every day.

The most common question I’m asked remains, “When can I get back to work?” Without work, no one gets paid, and without paychecks, kids don’t eat.

The fear I see among patients partly comes from worry about the virus and partly from the worry that comes from being sent home from work. Dishwashers, housekeepers, retail employees and daycare workers all are at risk of having to make do on last week’s paycheck. That is easier said than done.

When a community crisis hits, we in Memphis pull together with our neighbors and friends. I hope we will remember that those hurt most by events like the one we face now are those who can least afford it — those who have no reserves and who already are struggling to make ends meet. Social distancing, meant to slow the spread of the virus, also makes paychecks smaller and less frequent.

I hope you will stay vigilant in caring about our most vulnerable neighbors no matter how the challenges of coronavirus affect us, from health care to paychecks and everything in between. Stay in touch with your neighbors. Keep your eyes open for what people might need. Know where to find community resources. Be generous when you have opportunity.

In times like these, we all must care for one another.


Church Health Coronavirus in Tennessee G. Scott Morris


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