Thursday, December 31, 2020

Family visit to end 2020

My parents and brother and his family will return to Florida tomorrow morning, January 1. It was a wonderful visit -- crazy -- as visits with eight children are apt. to be -- but lovely just the same. We really weren't sure it would get to happen for most of the year. We didn't make any major advanced plans. We kept saying: "If you guys get to come ..." We remained ready for everything to be changed at the last minute. Should they drive to the "hot spot" of the world for COVID ... right now? In the end, our family got COVID ... and they decided to come. And there you have it. 

There were SO many pictures taken (most by my amazing sister-in-law). If you are my friend on Facebook, you can see them here. 

 Here are just a SMALL sampling of my favorites: 


Wednesday, December 30, 2020

We Bought a Farm: A Farm Dinner

My parents and brother and family were here for a genuine FARM DINNER. We had to process three of our male ducks. (Too many males means bad things for a duck flock.) So we had duck soup. We had our sweet potatoes. You can hear my commentary on this amazing time eating OUR food. I LOVE THIS LIFE!

Covid Question

John and I are fielding a lot of questions right now. Again: It's okay to ask us. We are working as a team and I am handling the answering/replying and just peppering him for answers when he isn't busy. 

We truly feel KNOWLEDGE is SO important. And we feel people need information right now. There is a lot of confusion and very hard questions -- especially in our area where this is currently nearly everywhere.

Many of you are starting to find your elderly neighbors getting sick. And there are questions about what to do about that.
A question earlier this week was how to transport that elderly patient to the hospital if they have COVID and you don't (or haven't) had it. You don't want to ride in the car with them. You have two choices: 1) Find someone who CAN take them (like me! I've had it!) OR 2) Call 911. Truly that's all you can do. 911 is having to be used for this.
A second question this week had to do with a neighbor who was admitted to the hospital but had a little dog that needs care. "We need to take care of her small dog. Do you know what we can do to help get her house ready for her return and keep it safer for us? We stand right inside the door to feed the dog. Her sister sprayed the house with Lysol this morning. No one else will be in her house except us until she comes home."
The best answer has to do with the fact of how long they "think" COVID can live on surfaces. Here is what current research is indicating. (Please remember! This is a young virus. So answers WILL change as more research is done. That's what research is.) But generally, the idea is, give it 72 hours before entering the house without precautions!

John's Credentials


To those who disagree with any aspect of my medical or scientific posts on Facebook, most notably during the COVID Pandemic, I will redirect you to this post. I will not be responding to any comments on this post. It will serve as a reference for me.
I could make an “appeal to authority” argument and ask them what medical school they went to, or what degrees they have, or how many clinical trials they have developed. But this doesn’t prove the other person wrong. It might make an audience side with the one who has the highest degree, but it just makes the other person feel belittled.
I could make an “appeal to experience”argument and ask them how many COVID patients they have treated, or how many COVID patients they have intubated, or how many times they have held a stranger in their arms while the stranger was sobbing and could barely stand because they told that stranger their loved one was dead. But this doesn’t prove them wrong, it just makes readers think the other person doesn’t have the experience to participate in the discussion, and it attempts to humiliate the other person into silence.
I could try to mock or shame them about basing possible life and death decisions for themselves or their children on YouTube data and google degrees. But this doesn’t actually prove a person wrong, even it it might make them doubt their knowledge foundation just a little bit.
In reality, I hate how social media makes us feel about each other.
I hate how social media makes me now believe that the other person THINKS they have “gotten the better” of me just because, for example, some third person also did not like my comparing medication safety data collection to automobile safety data collection.
(I think about a half-ton hunk of metal hurling down a road at 70 miles per hour with a family strapped inside of it... while the driver checks their phone messages... while we know that automobile accidents kill over 38,000 people each year in the United States alone... and understanding that the science of statistics doesn’t change whether it’s a human or an automobile...
So yes, I still think it’s a valid comparison.)
But at the same time, I also hate how social media makes that other person think I could equate the sanctity of a human life to a hunk of metal.
My life proves this to be untrue... but you don’t know my life.
So this is me.

I am ecstatically married to my high school sweetheart for over 20 years, and we have four children whom I love more than almost anything.

I have an art degree from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. I was a graphic designer and ran my own business for 5 years.

I became disillusioned with western/modern medicine due to an experience my wife had, and I read everything I could about her condition and the problems of modern medicine. I had good intentions, but I was an idiot... one who thought he knew things but didn’t have a clue about what I didn’t know or even comprehended was in existence.

I thought hard about becoming a naturopathic physician.

I earned a biology degree from Western Kentucky University. During this education, I realized that while there is a lot of truth in alternative and complementary medicine, there is also a lot of bad science and quackery.

I decided to become as legitimate a physician as possible and then incorporate alternative therapies into my own practice.

I have a medical degree from the Mayo Clinic.

I served in the United States Air Force as a physician for seven years while living overseas for four years.

I am an emergency medicine physician, and I am the co-medical director of an emergency department in East Tennessee.

Incorporating alternative medicine into my practice was as difficult as my chiropractor friend warned me, especially under the current medical system, but I haven’t lost all hope yet.

In addition to being a full-time physician, my wife and I run a small permaculture homestead and farm.
I am also an environmentalist.

And most cherished, I am a Christian.
But I don’t know your life.

Or I know very little of it.

Because of social media, we make brief but bold assessments about who the other person is, and we respond in ways that are so different than if we were having a conversation over a mug of coffee or a couple bottles of beer in person.

Ultimately, I hate how social media provides confirmation from within an echo chamber that may emotionally validate a person’s position while keeping them ignorant to the truth.

I don’t have the time or energy OR desire to engage every person who wants to argue with me within a social media format.

And yet, with good intentions, I keep throwing myself into the fray of social media and subjecting myself to more comments that reinforce the cycle of which I despise being a part.

I am not looking to win a debate.

I am not trying to outsmart you.

I don’t want to humiliate or embarrass or shame you.
If you disagree with me, please, for yourself, do so with logical criticism of your own argument as well. And I will continue to do the same.
As for me, I desire truth.

And I desire to share truth in love and in mercy and grace.
John Kitsteiner, MD

Tuesday, December 29, 2020


 To read all of my past posts dealing with COVID (and John's comments): CLICK HERE. 

If I get either of the two current COVID-19 Vaccines, how long will it last? Will we need it every year like the “flu shot”?

By: Dr. John Kitsteiner, MD
Quick Answer: We don’t know yet, but COVID immunity from the vaccine will likely last for at least a year. Probably longer.
Let’s first talk about the “flu shot”.
The influenza vaccine is given yearly because new strains of influenza develop rapidly each year... that’s how influenza viruses work.
In general, flu vaccines last about 6 months before antibodies start to dwindle... which is fine because that’s enough time to cover you though flu season. And this year’s strain is unlikely to be the trouble maker next year.
But other vaccines, like tetanus, last for many years. Also Tetanus doesn’t really mutate much. This is why we don’t get a tetanus booster every year. We just get one when our immunity starts to wear off. In the case of Tetanus, that’s about every 10 years.
And those in the COVID vaccine trials had high antibody levels at the 3 month mark, so we expect coverage for at least 6 months minimum. But I anticipate the data will show it lasts for at least a year and probably a lot longer.
Bottom line: the COVID vaccines will last long enough to make them worth it.

If COVID mutates, will the vaccine still work?

By Dr. John Kitsteiner, MD
Quick Answer: Probably. But if not, it’s likely not that big of a problem
There is always the possibility that any virus will mutate... that’s honestly very common with viruses, and we have no reason to think SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) is any different in that sense.
So if another strain of COVID develops, will that new strain be immune to this vaccine?
Well, it depends on how much the virus mutates. Remember, a vaccine (and natural immunity) causes the development of antibodies that “recognize” that bad virus. If the virus mutates a little bit, it’s likely that the virus will still be recognized by the antibodies. Kind of like if your best friend cut their hair... you would still recognize them.
In reality though, most virus mutations are almost entirely unnoticeable. They are small changes that don’t do much to the virus or the host. Kind of like if your best friend changes their socks. No one really notices or cares.
But occasionally, a virus may mutate a whole lot, and then maybe the antibodies won’t recognize the virus. Sort of like if your best friend cut and dyed their hair, completely changed their wardrobe, wore a big hat, and spoke in a foreign accent. You may still recognize them, but maybe you wouldn’t.
Here’s the good news...
Usually, when infectious viruses mutate, the mutation makes the virus less harmful. The mutation MAY make the virus more contagious, but almost every time, it is less deadly.
Think about it, if a virus’ goal is to maintain its existence, it wants to keep reproducing. It would want to make itself more contagious (so it spreads more) but less deadly (so the host doesn’t die, but keeps spreading the virus). Now, of course, viruses are not sentient beings; they are not planning their mutations.
Also remember that most coronaviruses which infect humans cause common cold symptoms. So, it is possible... likely even... that if the SARS-CoV-2 virus (COVID-19) mutates significantly, then even if the vaccines don’t work, they also likely wouldn’t even be needed.
But, for argument’s sake, let’s ask the question if (and there’s a lot of “ifs”)
- the virus mutates
- the new virus is still as contagious
- the new virus is still as deadly
- the mutation alters the virus enough so that the current vaccine-induced antibodies don’t recognize it
Then, yes, we will need a new COVID-19 vaccine (maybe the COVID-20 vaccine?).
However, IF that happens, now that we have the new type of vaccine (the mRNA vaccines) we would now able to produce a new COVID vaccine much faster, and there will unlikely be a big concern about developing a vaccine, if a new vaccine is even needed.

The loss of a friend

Dear DirectMD Greeneville Members,

There is no easy way to tell you this, yet we regret to announce the untimely death of our beloved Dr. Robert Street Berry who founded this clinic and who took great pains in bringing it to its present position. Our hearts are saddened, yet we take comfort in knowing that we will once again see him. He is at rest in the arms of his Heavenly Savior.
Timothy 4:7-8 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the LORD, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day-and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
Dr. Berry passed away suddenly at 2:30 am this morning at Greeneville Community Hospital East with his beloved wife Blair by his side. Please keep his precious family: Blair, his daughters Margaret and Rebekah, his extended family, his many friends, and our staff in your prayers. We will be praying for each and every one of you as well.
To know Dr. Berry was to love him. He was a brilliant, dedicated physician who genuinely cared and loved each and every one of his patients. We will update this page with more information as it becomes available.
Rest in peace Dr. Berry.


Do you believe in miracles? I do. (I really do!) I serve a God who can do miracles. Greeneville, TN needs a miracle folks. We are currently ground zero for the COVID war. And it is a WAR. And while you may not SEE it, please listen to me when I tell you, this is the MOMENT ... our hospital system is teetering. It can BREAK and we need a MIRACLE to not let the system break. I am not always at liberty to share what my husband and I talk about in private, but please HEAR MY WORDS! John just got home and things are as bad as he has ever seen them.

Please pray for this area we call home ... we are losing so many people and the grief is becoming all-consuming. I'm losing count. But even worse, the health system is teetering. This is NOT the media telling you something that is not true. This is
John Kitsteiner
and his staff witnessing this firsthand. And for me, this has stretched to my life as I have 5-7 people a day (NOT exaggerating!) messaging me for questions regarding COVID diagnosis/concerns that I am getting answers to for them ... (Please don't stop asking me ... this is my ROLE in this pandemic and I am honored to stand alongside my husband in this way.)
PRAY folks. We need God's intervention in a big way.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Winter Wonderland

To say it is beautiful around here the last two days doesn't seem an adequate adjective. It is majestic. It is awe-inspiring. I honestly believe that we may never have another Christmas like it. For my parents and brother and his family to be here for such beauty is simply icing on the cake.

After about 4-5 inches of snow on Christmas Eve, Christmas brought very cold temperatures, but the kids still managed to snow. Christmas night was in the single digits! That's cold for this part of the country. And then today, the day after Christmas, the sun came out. Just a beautiful, bright, white beauty! Absolutely amazing. I got the following videos of some of the snow today:



These are just a few pictures and videos. I have a ton more I will share later but for now, one more day of beauty. It will probably melt away tomorrow!

She has a TRIBE!!!!


This screen shot above makes me SO SO happy. This is my neighbor, Tammy. She and her husband and two little girls were diagnosed with COVID, and Tim has not been doing well. I've organized a fundraiser HERE.  We have raised $785.

But for Tammy to think "no one had her back" and now she sees the BODY OF CHRIST hold her up .... makes me SO SO SO happy!!!!

John went and checked on Tim on Christmas afternoon. John thought he was doing okay. Around 10:30pm Tammy called me quite upset. Tim had passed out and didn't look good. I told her to hang up and call 911, and John would be there in a few minutes. 

John helped get him on the ambulance, and he is currently at our county's hospital. Please continue to pray for this family, and if you feel lead to give to them, please do. They do not have insurance.


Friday, December 25, 2020

Christmas 2020

The year we can't take pictures with Santa so we come up with all other kinds of creative ideas. :) Of course, my kids gave up believing in Santa when they were like four. I tried. I really did. It was hopeless.

It feels like a movie ...


Some days I wonder if this can actually be ... happening: Tennessee Hospitals are Disturbingly Close to Their Breaking Point. The Epicenter of COVID right now is Tennessee. And basically, the Epicenter of the Epicenter is East TN. Things are super duper bad here. I don't know how else to put it into words. And my husband is the Emergency Room Doctor in a county that only has one hospital. And there is only one doctor in the Emergency Room at a time.

Immediately people say: Bring in more people to help. There aren't more people. Nurses have been quitting left and right. There are only five doctors, and they are already burnt to a crisp.

I think about COVID all the time ... I think about all my friends battling it. And I think about our community. Things are not good. We truly need a miracle to keep the hospital from breaking.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Their first snow!

My brother and his wife, Adrienne "AD" and their four kiddos: Charleigh (11), Baylee (almost 10), Riddick (just turned 5), and Maddox (3) drove into TN to spend Christmas with us. They arrived late on Sunday night. My parents also made the drive and their arrived on Wednesday. My parents purchased a second home in Greeneville a few months ago. Greeneville is "the big town" that is about 25 minutes from our house in Bulls Gap. It is where we do everything. (John works there, homeschool, ballet, church, groceries etc.) The house is right around the corner from Abigail's ballet which is so nice when we need somewhere to pass some hours between rehearsals. 

Any-who . . . 

Keith's oldest three kiddos have never been in snow! These are Fort Lauderdale peeps so snow is a big deal. To get snow on Christmas Eve?!? That's like the BIG DREAM, right? 

Unfortunately, the snow was due to turn from rain to snow right around 4pm and get pretty nasty overnight so we made the decision today that they should head back to Greeneville and see the snow at "their" house so they didn't get stuck on the farm overnight. 

You can see that even on their drive to Greeneville, it was getting nasty out there. They left right on time!


And then, they were back at my parents' house and it was time to enjoy the snow. Better to enjoy it this evening when it was still in the 30's. Tomorrow the HIGH is 25!



Downtown snow!

Playing in their very first snow!

My brother on "don't run in the street" duty!


The lovely Adrienne

Charleigh and a snowball


And here is a look at what our farm looked like before bed. They are predicting 3-6" which is a LOT of snow for our parts. I am pretty sure the last time we had a "BIG" snow like this was in 2016.  This was our very first snow on our farm, but Grama and the kids and I were on a vacation to South Florida and missed it. Scrubs had a blast though! Here is how it looked before bed:

So much truth


Monday, December 21, 2020

Are these rushed vaccines safe?

These Covid-19 Vaccines were “rushed”. Can they still be safe?

John Kitsteiner, MD, Emergency Medicine Physician
East Tennessee 

Novel (new) vaccines typically take years to develop.
These COVID-19 vaccines have been produced in record time, but that doesn’t mean they were “rushed”.

The process was mainly sped up by three things:

1) Streamlining the process.
The whole process was significantly faster due to streamlining the paperwork aspects of vaccine production. Paperwork filing and review is usually done in batches, sometimes only being submitted every few weeks or months.  With such a great need, the hospitals and academic labs filed paperwork daily. The scientists who review the paperwork did it immediately when it was received; they didn’t place the paperwork at the bottom of the pile and work their way to it… vaccine paperwork cut to the front of the line every time. Additionally, these review scientists often worked seven days a week to expedite the process.

2) Making information public.
Research labs and scientists typically keep their research private. They don’t want to share their findings until they are done with a project so they can be the first to publish an article, develop a medicine, etc. But due to the importance of developing a vaccine, scientists from around the world made their research public immediately. There was an unprecedented sharing of information. This included the SARS-CoV-2 virus genome (the genetic code of the virus that causes the COVID-19 infection). Usually, each lab has to perform each step on their own, but by sharing information, each lab could take that information and move on to the next step. That is a HUGE savings of time.

3) Lots of funding (money)!
Vaccines do not make a lot of money for the pharmaceutical companies, and whether you like it or not, the potential to make money is what directs a lot of research. Vaccines are typically used only a few times in a person’s life (compared to that medicine you need to take twice a day for 30 years), so vaccines don’t bring in a lot of cash flow. And because they take time to develop (see above), vaccines are often not a high priority for pharmaceutical companies. But because of the worldwide impact the virus has had on the lives and economies around the world, a lot of money from governments and the private sector was given to develop the vaccines.

Researchers suddenly had the funding for extra help and machines and space. They had (almost) a blank check to make things happen, they had readily access to shared information, AND they had a fast-pass to the front of the bureaucratic line each step of the way. None of the testing or safety aspects were reduced or skipped.

Physicians and nurses are getting the vaccine first. We are the first guinea pigs, so to speak, of the general public not in a trial to get this vaccine. This is anecdotal, but I do not know a single physician who is not getting the vaccine as soon as it is available, unless they have a contraindication (medical reason for not doing it). In fact, most are publicly posting photos of themselves getting it. And this is happening all over the world, not just in the US.

Yes, this vaccine was produced in record time. But that doesn’t make it unsafe, not by any means.

If you want to see the data on the two COVID vaccines for the US, you can see it here:

(the photo is of my friend and colleague getting her vaccine!)

Vaccine FAQ

John Kitsteiner, MD, Emergency Medicine Physician
East Tennessee 

What COVID-19 vaccines are there right now?

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID Vaccine (also known as the BNT162b2 vaccine)
This is the first COVID vaccine available in the US.
This is the one that physicians and nurses are getting right now.
It is a mRNA vaccine.
Needs extreme-cold storage.

Moderna COVID Vaccine (also known as the mRNA-1273 vaccine)
This is the second COVID vaccine available in the US. 
We will start using it in a few days from the date this is posted.
It is also a mRNA vaccine.
Does not need extreme-cold storage, this means it will likely be shipped to less populated areas.

First of all, how do vaccines work?

A vaccine works by making our body think it was infected by a bad virus or bacteria that causes a disease (tetanus, rabies, polio, influenza, etc.). When our body is infected (or thinks it is infected), it creates special cells called antibodies that remember what the bad virus or bacteria look like… it’s kind of like the antibodies are the “Wanted Posters” for the bad guys.
The next time the antibodies see the bad virus or bacteria, they recognize and attach themselves to that bad virus or bacteria. This prevents the virus or bacteria from entering cells to cause an infection, but it also calls in other immune cells to attack and kill the bad virus or bacteria.

Traditional vaccines imitate an infection by introducing either a whole virus that has been weakened (known as a live-attenuated vaccine), a whole virus that has been killed (inactivated vaccine), weakened toxins from a bacteria (toxoid vaccine), or parts of a vaccine or bacteria (subunit vaccines). Our body sees these foreign substances and creates antibodies (wanted ads) against them.

If your body encounters the real virus or bacteria, the immune system attacks it. The result is that you get a very mild infection with very mild symptoms or even better, you don’t get the infection at all. It is estimated that since 1962, about 10 million lives have been saved through vaccines. And that is not taking into account the number of medical problems that people would have developed from the diseases without dying (such as partial, life-long paralysis from polio, for example).

So what is an mRNA vaccine?

First… DNA and RNA and mRNA

Our body is built out of proteins. Proteins are basically the building blocks of life. Proteins, when combined with fats and sugars and water and minerals and a number of other things, make up who we are.

DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid.  DNA is the instructions or blueprint for building proteins, and therefore, life.

RNA stands for ribonucleic acid. RNA is very similar to DNA, but it is a temporary copy of the DNA, and it is used to build proteins. There are three major types of RNA, and they are all vital to building proteins.

mRNA (or messenger RNA) is one of the RNA types, and it can be thought of as the foreman on the building project who looks at the blueprint (DNA) and builds the proteins.

So then, what is an mRNA Vaccine?

A mRNA virus allows us to directly inject the foreman (with the blueprints) into our system, so that our body can begin to immediately make the immune cells to attack the virus that is attacking us. It means that immunity is developed faster. It also means that we can change the vaccine easily if the virus mutates.

Even though this is the first approved mRNA vaccine, this is not new science. We have been working on developing mRNA vaccines for cancer and HIV for many years. We’ve had some big breakthroughs in the last few years that have made mRNA vaccines a reality now. The COVID-19 pandemic has suddenly given scientists and labs a lot of funding to bring this technology to the street. There are a ton of really good articles you can read on reputable sites that go into the details if you want more information on the science behind mRNA vaccines and the really interesting future plans for this technology.

Will an mRNA Vaccine change my DNA?

No. The vaccine uses mRNA, not DNA. mRNA doesn’t stick around for very long. mRNA cannot combine with DNA. As I explained above, the mRNA is the foreman on the job who looks at the blueprints (DNA) and builds according to the plan. The foreman doesn’t change the blueprint; mRNA cannot change DNA.

Do these vaccines use aborted babies?

First, I am pro-life, so that is my worldview as I answer this question. I want to be clear about that, so no one will try to twist what I am saying as if I have an agenda.

There were cells that were harvested (taken) from two fetuses (babies) that were aborted in the 1970’s. These cells have been replicated over and over for decades, and they are used in biomedical research all around the world. Some vaccines and medicines are being developed using these cell lines. Companies are very open about when they do this and when they do not. There are a lot of non-government organizations who keep track of this as well.

Neither of the current vaccines have used these cell lines in the design, development, or production of the vaccine.
However, both have used the cell lines in confirmatory tests for the vaccine. They are not using any newly aborted baby’s cells… these are the same cell lines from the 1970’s.

If you get the vaccine, you are NOT getting aborted baby cells injected into you. But ultimately, you need to decide about where you draw the line on this issue.

Personally, I don’t like that these cells were collected in the first place. But I also know how much beneficial information that they have provided to us. I would be highly against any vaccine that uses newly aborted tissue or cells. But I am personally endorsing these two COVID vaccines.

Here is a great site that provides detailed information on this topic:

Allergic Reactions and the COVID Vaccine.

ANY medicine can produce an allergic reaction. For that matter, almost all foods can cause an allergic reaction. Vaccines are no different. Any vaccine can potentially cause an allergic reaction. These vaccine will likely cause allergic reactions. About 80,000 people received the vaccine in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine trials. No one in the trials developed allergic reactions. However, there have been some allergic reactions to the vaccines since they have started vaccinating front-line workers. These have been easily treated and no one has died from the vaccine. In general, as with all medicines, there is a risk to taking the medicine and a risk to NOT taking the medicine. Ultimately, that decision is your choice… and, in my opinion, it shouldn’t be mandatory. With that said, I do recommend getting the COVID vaccine.

Side Effects of the COVID Vaccine.

Most people have no side effects other than a sore muscle where the injection was placed. But some people are reporting fatigue, muscle and/or joint pain, and chills… basically, mild COVID symptoms. These side effects are not very common. But I do know one physician who has had these symptoms after their vaccination; they also get these same symptoms with the yearly influenza vaccine. Some people are more prone to getting a body wide response to vaccines. With that said, just like I mentioned about allergic reactions, anyone can have bad experiences with vaccines. As we immunize more and more people, we continue to collect and share data.  And again, with that said, I do recommend getting the COVID vaccine.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Life "returns" ... a little more normally

Today, we left the house.

Normally that wouldn't be a noteworthy blog post. 

But when you haven't gotten in a car since November 24 (25 days or so?!) that feels like a:




So we took pictures to celebrate. And even a video:

A man watching us said to me after the video: "Did you tell your kids to smile? They have masks on."

"I know," I said. "It's silly. But we are celebrating getting through COVID."

I told him we had had it, and he jumped backward. I told him we were "clean" and finally out in the real world!

I'm still a bit weak -- low energy. But my cough is mostly gone. My taste and smell have returned. The head "pressure" has released. We waited 14-days from the last person's symptoms (Hannah) before we ventured out. A bit of overkill, but we decided to be extra careful.

The girls also took their very first ballet class since pre-COVID days. We have done private lessons via zoom and in-person with just their teacher, LoriAnn, and cousins. But Abigail, my ballerina, hadn't been in a class since February. Missing ballet for Hannah isn't a big deal. But for Abigail, this has been really hard. (Actually, they went to ONE class when the numbers in Greeneville reached almost zero. And then things exploded.)

Deciding to "go back to real life" wasn't done without a lot of thought, prayer, and the wisdom of people we trusted. Ultimately, while we still be very careful (even wearing masks when most likely, we can't get or give it again), we have decided that because we have all had COVID, we do not have to be concerned about bringing it home to our Grama, my Uncle, or the Kotysnkis who have a baby at home. This is a great comfort. We decided to let the kids go back to ballet and karate ... in a building that brings us ...




Today was extra special. It was the Christmas class. LoriAnn has done a great job keeping the classes extra small. She let Hannah come in for this even though she was way too young. Our friend Katy (whom we homeschool with) was there. As was our good friend Bailee. I got a picture of the girls with Bailee: 

I also got a video of Abigail dancing with her role-model, Katy. Later, Katy approached me and said: "Can I hug you?!" We've been schooling together for a semester but always remotely:

While ballet is just something "fun" for Hannah, it's always been very near and dear to Abigail's heart. But I'll be honest, during the last eight months, I wondered if she would stick with it. Private classes and missing her friends meant ballet just wasn't the same. And when I'd watch her dance, I could tell her heart was often not in it.

But today? Her heart was in it again. We did a Christmas Nativity play, and she was the star (like the actual star in the sky), and she just looked like the dancer she has always been again. I had worried greatly for all my kids during this pandemic. But Abigail -- my shy little one -- was the one that always concerned me the most. Would she come out on the other side the "same" kid?

John often told me the truth: none of us will. Those of who lived through 911 are changed by it. We remember life before. And we experience life after. Our kids are the same. They will always remember 2020. They will tell their grandchildren about it. It will affect them greatly. Even more so, I believe, for kids directly impacted like my kids were by their Daddy fighting on the front lines. We can't pretend or wish away reality. Nearly all of us have felt loss and grief during this year.

But today? 

Today was ... nearly ... normal. 

And it's hard not to have "Survivor's Guilt" about that. I still have so many people quarantining closely from COVID due to high risk people or for the greater good of the community. Is it fair for me to return to life as normal when they can't? 

No. It's not fair.

But yes, it's okay to return to our life since COVID has already hit our bodies.

Right before ballet, I actually ran into my amazing friend Mary Kay in the post office. (Our husbands were stationed together back in the Azores.) We were heading back to my parent's home in Greeneville to drop off a few things and kill an hour, and Mary Kay came with us. She sat on the couch inside their house. We spoke without masks. We hugged. My girls looked at me and said: "We can hug her?!" My little Abigail, shy with many people, immediately fell back into Mary Kay's arms:

After ballet we went to Chik-fil-A. I saw our friend Emma in the drive-thru. "Can I hug you?" I asked. I explained to my kids that not everyone would feel comfortable hugging us and some people still need to be VERY careful. I told them it might still be awkward and reserved. 

But life changes for us now.

Not everyone. 

But for us? A little bit of normalcy.

Does a heart good.

Masks, Politics, and Christians.


Masks, Politics, and Christians.
(My thoughts as a Christian emergency medicine physician.)
Guess what I saw today?
Another elderly patient in my emergency department whom I had to admit to the hospital because they had COVID-19, bilateral multifocal pneumonia, and a new oxygen requirement (needing supplemental oxygen to keep their oxygen saturation above 90%).
They caught it from a specific person who wouldn’t wear a mask “because COVID really isn’t a pandemic, and masks don’t actually make any difference anyway”. That specific person was with a large number of people the day before they developed symptoms, which means they were unknowingly spreading the infection to numerous people. Now that specific person is recovering well at home (they are younger and healthier), while my patient is in the hospital and in poor condition.
Guess what else I saw today?
People sharing on social media how all the people who wear masks are sheep... they are full of fear... they are gullible... they are pawns... they are promoting fear as a virtue... and they are ultimately unable to see behind the lies.
Some of those people were my brothers and sisters in faith.
But you know what?

They are wrong.
I have not been scared of this virus.
I have said from the beginning that my concern was not overwhelming death from the virus, but that our medical systems may get overwhelmed. We have come very close to that... some days it feels like we have crossed over that point. But then the next day is a little better.
I have been exhausted, physically, mentally, and emotionally. But that’s my job.
And I have never been afraid.
I never wore a mask out of fear.
I wore a mask out of love.
I am not a hippy, “all the world needs is love” kind of guy. I don’t use this word lightly.
What I am taking about is a real, “love your neighbor as yourself” kind of love.
As a Christian, I am talking about a self-sacrificing, servant-leadership kind of love.
I am taking about an inconveniencing yourself so that another person might benefit kind of love... even if you never see the fruit of your work and you get no credit for the sacrifice kind of love.
Personally, I survived COVID.
My symptoms were not fun, but I recovered. So did my wife and kids. So have most of my friends who got it.
But not all of them... and definitely not all my patients. I get to see the sickest COVID patients pass through my emergency department, and many of these patients still go home. Unfortunately, many of them have died.
This is the unfortunate consequence of a life-threatening pandemic. We were never going to get through this without some loss.
But what pains me most are the people who die that might have lived if the people around them lived their lives with love instead of trying to prove a political point.
I spent 8 months working in the Emergency Department seeing COVID patients every single shift. I have easily seen multiple hundreds of patients who are known COVID positive. I didn’t catch COVID for that long, because masks work.
As humans, we have been given the gift of discernment. We have the ability to know that not everything is black and white... all or none.
I know there are people who will use this pandemic to push political agendas. These people pose real and tangible threats to our liberty. I firmly believe this is true.
But that doesn’t mean we need to forget Christ’s command to love your neighbor as yourself.