Wesley J. McDougal: Stay at home and you could save someone’s life

Voters observe social distancing guidelines as they wait in line to cast ballots at Washington High School while ignoring a stay-at-home order over the coronavirus threat to vote in the state's presidential primary election, Tuesday April 7, 2020, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

It is admirable to see so many make sacrifices to stay home and practice social distancing. It’s not easy, and there have been a lot of postponed plans. I’m confident that, once the immediate danger has passed, we will reinstate vacations, backyard barbecues, sporting events and social gatherings.

All around us we are starting to see the casualties of people who have succumbed to the COVID-19 disease. We are also starting to see job losses and economic hardships suffered by many friends and acquaintances. Both are tragic, and we are reminded that we are not immune to either outcome.

The COVID-19 virus has caused a lot of uncertainty and many mixed emotions among close friends and family members. A lot of conversations involve questions such as, Are we doing enough? Have we done too much? Why stay home? Why do they care if I stay at home?

It’s uncharted territory. The strain on friendships and families will continue to grow as casualties increase. The unfortunate nature of the virus often allows a traceable transmission path that can go from a friend or family member to infect a father, mother or another sibling. The burden of discovery will cause heartache.

Over the coming weeks, our individual actions will produce collective consequences. The direct link is both measurable and identifiable.

Over the past nine months, our family has experienced first-hand the consequences of an infectious disease. Our son Spencer served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Ivory Coast, Africa, where he contracted the dengue fever virus and at the same time suffered from an aggressive bacterial infection of a kind that is often fatal.

Elder Spencer McDougal

After doing all they could do, the medical advisors medevaced him on life support to Paris. We met our son in the ICU in Paris, where we spent the next five weeks at his side often sleeping beneath his bed on the hospital floor.

It was not easy. He experienced it all: cardiac arrest, respiratory and kidney failure, high fevers for weeks, inflammation and sepsis. We made it through and, more importantly, he made it through.

Fast forward nine months and he is healing and yet we now find our nation fighting through an infectious disease. Every critical case of COVID-19 will present itself similarly to what our son experienced. There will be a need for ventilators, defibrillators, dialysis machines, ultrasounds and MRIs. And, perhaps most importantly, health care professionals to put on the personal protective masks, gloves and gowns to read charts, take temperatures, regulate breathing, adjust medications, hold a hand and comfort a grieving heart.

We are so grateful for the prayers and faith, skilled nurses and doctors, equipment and medicines that saved our son’s life. In the present COVID-19 threat, there simply are not enough of these critical resources to save all of our loved ones unless we slow down the spread of the virus. So forgive me if I come across too strong, but we must commit to staying home and practicing strict social distancing.

When people fail to stay at home they put people at risk of dying. Is there anything in the coming weeks in our individual lives that is so important that it outweighs the collective lives of those around us? Over the coming weeks, please make individual decisions about staying at home based on the collective consequences. As we don’t know the outcomes, our family will be doing this for you. So, in return, please do it for us. For all of us.

Wesley J. McDougal

Wesley J. McDougal lives in Holladay.