The quick, and most logical, answer to that question would be essentially all of humanity on our increasingly fragile planet.  Covid-19 has by now reached or will soon be reaching, essentially every country on earth… to most likely include their most remote and sparsely-populated areas after the cities, in most cases.

The degree to which they become directly affected (and infected) depends in large measure on how each country, state, region, or community responds to the guidance of each country’s public health scientists and experts, steering clear of any ill-conceived or just plain ignorant and/or self-centered attempts at leadership and guidance by some elected officials.

That answer, accurate as it may be, is fairly abstract in that none of us have a direct and personal connection with almost all of the earth’s 7.5 billion inhabitants.  Of those that I do have a personal connection with, three sets of people close to me, to different degrees, find themselves in my hopeful good thoughts that surface multiple times each day.

The first two are much like yours.

Both my wife Judy and I are almost constantly thinking about the health and fortunes of our sons, their wives, and our three grandkids, all of whom live in Colorado tight against the eastern shoulder of the Rocky Mountains in the small cities of Golden and Boulder.

Periodic phone calls, texts and emails (sometimes supplemented with attached photos and videos), and FaceTime conversations help fill the void that cross-country geography, and now sheltering-in-place requests/orders, dictate in the interest of winning the battle against this novel virus with as few casualties as possible.

A close second would be Judy’s parents who are living in an assisted-living facility in Mays Landing, New Jersey.  Her Dad just turned 94 last week, and her Mom will be 92 years of age in June.  Each has a few age-related health problems, but are generally in good health.  Yet, they are both deep into the age-related high-risk group.

Thankfully, the facility has instituted timely bans on visitors entering through the doors, and the internal policies set forth in response to the coronavirus are both necessary and logical.  Our only contact with them has been limited to our regular phone conversations of encouragement and sharing news of our Colorado families.

For me, there is a third category that has been on my mind, like the first two, essentially since the first week of March…the clinical and support staffs in the critical care units at my workplace for 17 years (1974-1991), Maine Medical Center in Portland.

Maine Medical Center from Portland’s Western Promenade much as it appeared during my years there directing the Physical Therapy Division from 1974-1991. The original Maine General Building, built in 1870, includes my office windows on the third floor, below the old “tower” and to the left. Additions in the past 30 years, including the current $600M expansion, are behind what is visible in this photo.

It really struck me how the wonderful staff in MMC’s Special Care Unit (SCU) came into my mind early in the month…as soon as the projections came out that intensive care units, especially in major medical centers would soon be overwhelmed by victims of the virus who have reached a point of significant respiratory distress.

On a daily basis, I still think of all those in SCU that I, a physical therapist, worked with over the years and what surely is beginning to hitting them now, dozens of Covid-19 victims in acute respiratory (breathing) distress requiring ventilators to support their own compromised breathing efforts.  The current state of the pandemic in New York City and news reports about how the intensive care staffs are now close to being overwhelmed by the numbers of patients in need, is a forecast of what will most likely be coming to all medical centers in Maine, and especially at Maine Med.

I directed the Physical Therapy Division at Maine Medical Center for 16 of the 17 years that I worked in that fine institution.  As an acute care, high level medical center, work at Maine Med for a PT was primarily working with inpatients in almost all clinical areas of the hospital.

We did see outpatients in our clinic, and we also had a medical rehabilitation unit where we worked with the most disabled patients after their acute injury phases were completed.  Patients such as spinal cord injured, strokes, and amputees, were transferred to “rehab” for longer term treatment and functional training in preparation for discharge to their homes after weeks of our care.

However, my staff and I worked primarily with acute problems of all kinds.  We had a very good working relationship with the pulmonary (lung) physicians and worked with their patients who had a variety of breathing problems such as chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD) to acute trauma to cystic fibrosis… to help them develop better endurance and mobility for returning to a more physically active post-hospitalization lifestyle.  The pulmonary physicians were involved with essentially every severely ill patient that landed in the Special Care Unit…so we were called on to do our part with most of their intensive care patients.

I tell you all this because we spent a lot of time working closely with the docs and highly trained nurses and respiratory therapists in the unit.  The work usually required putting on, and taking off, the masks, gloves, and gowns for each patient we covered when on that clinical rotation.  I know firsthand the intensity of the work required to serve the needs of these patients, and the exhaustion that comes with working with severely burned patients in particular, and the infection control procedures required of all staff working with them…much like working with Covid-19 patients now in 2020.

I also know all about the dedicated staff at Maine Med, …just like the intensive care staffs of other medical centers in New York, Boston, and other cities across the country that are already inching closer to being overwhelmed.  I am very much concerned for their well-being right now.  I also know that they are, or will be, working long hours to serve the needs of each and every patient that is transferred from the emergency department to their unit with a Covid-19 diagnosis.

The current staff are sure to be selfless and dedicated, just as their predecessors were back during my tenure at MMC.  It was a privilege to be part of the team as a physical therapist.  I was impressed then, and I am sure that the staff there today is no less dedicated and skilled.

My problem for the past month has been that beyond sending supportive thoughts, I haven’t been able to identify a way be more tangibly helpful (beyond diligently following the CDC guidelines regarding social distancing, and maintaining a shelter-in-place lifestyle to make sure that Judy and I don’t unwittingly contract the virus, then contribute to the spread of the virus, thus adding to the burden falling on today’s acute care health professionals) …especially as a 73-year-old retired physical therapist living in Rangeley, 2 1/2 hours north of Portland.

Then I read a wonderful story in the online Portland Press Herald newspaper this past weekend.  It was about at least three restaurants in Portland that are participating in the “Feeding the Frontline” program started in Boston, whereby individuals can order a number of delicious prepared meals-in-a-box for those working with hardly a break in the action as they do their best for complicated patients on ventilators, etc.  Here was my opportunity to do something that I know would be very much appreciated.

One of the most popular options was from Woodford Food and Beverage, a popular restaurant of Forest Avenue near Woodfords Corner.  For $100, one could order a dozen or so great cheeseburgers with fries meals that would be delivered to the front door of Maine Med on Bramhall Street to then be transported directly to the break room in the special care units.  The article indicated that the Woodford cheeseburgers were the most popular thank you “messages” received on the units.  The cheeseburgers aren’t exactly health food, but they sure are well into the category of much appreciated “comfort food” for sure!

Later on this week, but before you read this edition of The Highlander on Friday, April 3rd…I will be pulling out my VISA card and ordering that $100 delivery of delicious cheeseburger meals from Woodford Food & Beverage… to be delivered to the hardworking staff in the Special Care Unit at MMC.  Its the least I can do for what they are currently doing for their patients, and will be doing for a weeks to come, according to all the predictions and forecasts.

By the way, Woodford’s phone number is 207/200-8503…

We need to write, otherwise nobody will know who we are.

Garrison Keillor

I’ll be ridin’ shotgun, underneath the hot sun, feelin’ like a someone…


Per usual, your thoughts and comments are more than welcome.  Jot them down on a 3”x5” card and slip it inside our mudroom’s log door on the rockbound west shore of Gull Pond…or simply fire off an email to [email protected]


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