I’m not planning to kiss her, but I want to shake Kaci Hickox’s hand
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie hasn’t apologized to nurse Kaci Hickox, but I will.
My state — Maine — hasn’t (yet) put her in isolation through hospital solitary confinement, as the state of New Jersey chose to do. But in just 24 hours since hearing she would travel to Fort Kent, my neighbors and friends in Aroostook County have posted pictures of her on Facebook and warned that she should be wearing hunter orange so she will be easier to run out of town.
I don’t think she should be concerned for her safety.
But I am concerned for other reasons. I am ashamed to live among people who are so provincial they will make a pariah out of a woman who proudly represents our region. Hickox is a hero, not a threat.
If you believe our military aims to stop threats where they start, you should believe the same of Hickox. The spread of Ebola has been halted in Nigeria thanks to brave medical workers such as her. Hopefully her efforts in Sierra Leone will contribute to the same effect in that country.
Personally, I’m not brave. When flu season comes to northern Maine, I hate to shake hands. When the children in my family come down with colds, I start popping vitamin C. But the brouhaha about Ebola in my state drives me crazy.
I would waive my hand-shaking policy to shake Hickox’s hand, because I know Ebola is transmitted through blood or bodily fluids of a person who is sick with Ebola. Hickox is not sick, and I’m not planning to kiss her. The disease also is transmitted by contaminated needles and syringes, and I’m not planning to shoot up with her. The third means of transmission is through infected fruit bats or monkeys, and I haven’t seen any of those in Fort Kent. If they lived here, I’m sure it would be open season.
Our Ebola frenzy is focused in the wrong place. One healthy nurse at home in Fort Kent is not a threat. The real threat is almost 5000 dead and more than 10,000 recorded infections in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and other west African countries. Ebola creates a humanitarian crisis, an economic challenge and a political concern in regions already rife with weak infrastructure, political instability, and conflict.
In northern Maine, the threat to our community is the lack of compassion for those who care. Hickox had the training and the guts to go where I cannot. Because of her, my community and my country are safer. I trust our medical professionals and the monitoring process, and I trust in a better world brought about by people such as her.
Erica Quin-Easter is a resident of Caribou. She has worked with various Maine nonprofit organizations since 1999.