Ebola is the word on everyone’s lips and minds these days. Although I’m not upset or afraid, I’ve had a reminder of just how interconnected we all are, and how our mobile society has changed the fact of communicable disease. I was reminded that it is, indeed, a small, small world (cue Disney music – you’re welcome).
For many years, Ebola has been something I was aware of. I knew it was a horrible, usually fatal disease that happens ELSEWHERE. When selecting a name for our home wireless network several years ago, I selected the name “Ebola” because I thought it would be less attractive to try to hack into a network named after a deadly virus (and, admittedly, I was trying to be “cute).
As the disease spread throughout the African continent, I still though little of it. Transporting stricken aid workers to the US did not worry me, either. When the man who was sick came here from Liberia and was sent home from the ER before taking a bad turn and eventually dying, I realized that this isn’t something that just happens somewhere else, but still thought “it will not affect me and my family.”
On Tuesday, I had a court hearing in downtown Cleveland. I parked near Public Square, walked 5 blocks past lots of people waiting for lights to turn and past food vendors and bus stops. I grabbed a handrail to go up the courthouse steps. I pushed the elevator button for the 6th floor and shared the elevator with another person.
I waited in a crowded waiting area for my client’s case to be called. I sat at a table in a chair that had probably been occupied a dozen times by a dozen different people throughout the morning. I walked back to my car through another crowd, had lunch in a crowded diner with a friend, and meandered home.
The next day (Wednesday) the news broke that a nurse who had cared for the dying Ebola patient had been in Ohio over the weekend and had flown from Cleveland to Akron. Although it still didn’t scare me, I couldn’t help thinking that at some point on Tuesday, I had probably come within close proximity to someone who had been in the airport terminal on the day she flew.
My son works in downtown Cleveland, and at dinner we discussed the news. Although neither of us felt uncomfortable, both of us had spent time thinking about the likelihood that someone who had crossed our path had likely crossed paths with someone who had crossed paths (and so on and so forth). Still not afraid, we were both reminded that the access to easy transportation brings with it risks.
On Thursday, I saw the news that my cousin’s son had been on the flight from Cleveland to Dallas. While it would not be uncommon for the relative of an Ohio family to be on a flight originating in Ohio, this case was a little different. My cousin’s family lives in Arkansas. Her son lives in Texas. He wasn’t here visiting family – he was on business. I’m not sure I’ve ever met him in person. Although he is a virtual stranger to me, his mother is not. We grew up together and although we are not close, we communicate on Facebook and I enjoy seeing what her family is doing.
My cousin’s son is a smart young man, and he has voluntarily quarantined himself. Although he received news that he was seated within 3 feet of the infected nurse, we are all hopeful that he will not contract the deadly virus.
I’m still not afraid, but I am far more aware of the risks of this and any other disease. I will be practicing “flu season” measures, including frequent hand washing and avoiding touching my face with my hands. I know the risks of catching this virus are very small.
I know there is a lesson for me in here somewhere. Maybe there is a lesson for you, too. It’s a small, small, world. We are not so removed from one another as we might think.