Do Something Useful -- Please

Hi, you don’t know me yet. My name is not that important right now. I wouldn’t normally trot out credentials, but time is short and I want you to have confidence in the reasoning and expertise I have to share. This is not authority. I’m a former medic, and have worked in Pediatric ER’s ICU’s and in field environments. I am not an epidemiologist, virologist, or even a PhD. I have training and experience with crisis management in a clinical setting. I have additional experience in disaster preparedness and social fallout mitigation as a function of being raised in a doomsday cult that did disaster relief for its people when it wasn’t prepping for the apocalypse. This is the voice I’m speaking from and the lens that colors my comments.

The point of this post is to encourage a mindset among everyone here, that is productive, responsive, non-reactive, and sustainable. We are facing an emergent crisis in this global pandemic. Daily it encroaches further toward global disaster. We are not at a place of societal collapse, and the risk of this is low. That said, this is clearly a time none of us have ever experienced on this scale before. Typically, navigating is best done on calm seas. In these uncharted waters, doubly so. We often think of the “Fight or Flight” amygdala response when faced with danger or uncertainty, but we dont often discuss the third response people have- “Freeze”

Some, when confronted with a high risk situation, will freeze. They may become inert or emotionless. This state is really useful when we need to have clarity on “what happens next.” While a person is in “Freeze” their emotions stop registering on the surface so much, but they’re still there. They’re being compartmentalized. This is natural for some folks and it makes them particularly capable in crisis. They can think clearly, they can plan and adapt and most importantly they ask this question: “What is the most useful way to look at this matter?” Our time for torches and pitchforks will be there down the road, but we have to get down the road first. The encouragement here, is in any matter, don’t react- respond.

Fortunately, even though most people don’t have that default response to crisis, it can be trained. That you have read the above means you know it. If you read this at a time that you were feeling calm, and focused, you’ll remember the value of what’s here and you’ll apply it. Easiest training ever. There’s more to it of course, but getting into that calm and placid water, makes this chaotic circumstance far easier to navigate. At the same time, remember that the feelings you arent showing, are just hiding. Reacting with those feelings is our natural inclination and its how we deal with the energy that our brain projects. When we compartmentalize, we bottle, and pressure builds. As the days roll ahead, keep notice on this pressure building, and ensure you have healthy release valves to purge this buildup, at least partially. This pressure has side effects and will vent itself if you do not. As the days become weeks and weeks become months, having a “new normal” of a “well-managed anxiety purge cadence” will be invaluable to you. And to the people you are interacting with.

We have a LOT of work to do ahead of us, lets make sure we can do it effectively. Wherever we are going we get there together.

I’d like to talk a bit about how I believe the NB community can be effective in this time as well. As you may have noticed, much of the research and medical publishing on COVID-19, has been occuring at breakneck pace, much has not been afforded time for peer review, and is supplied as “best effort” information. This means that we, as a species, are cutting some corners (see also, vaccine efforts, and many many other indicators). The institutional power that governs the lives of these billions of humanity, regardless of political framing, is doing its best right now to manage this common enemy we face. This should inform the approach we take with what we do next. What is the most useful way to look at this?

Well, what are we looking at? Based on what we know we’re bracing now for the worst to come. We can plan for what we may need. We’re too late to be doomsday prepping and fantasizing about “what if”, but not too late to be “real shit” prepping. Whats that look like? As many likely know, the back of the envelope projections are that the US may need several million hospital beds in the coming months. What you may not know is that US bed occupancy is, on average, 68%; We’re coming off an aggressive flu season, and everyone is overworked; And we have 912k hospital beds. What happens when the shit hits the fan (believe it or not, it hasn’t yet) and we’ve got nowhere to put people? Its likely the National Guard and the Military will set up Field Hospitals on military bases (there are many reasons I project this solution, but have not seen any official notice yet, we’re getting there tho). These field hospitals will be useful for isolating the sick, and hopefully for giving them the care they need to live. What these field hospitals, and many regular hospitals wont have? Ventilators. The US cant “borrow” them from China, either. This is the challenge I want to put before this community.

We can be useful in meeting this challenge if we can assist with the coming clinical need. Should that need not materialize, we will have learned some cool shit, and done something useful. If that need materializes, Noisebridge will be in the work of saving lives. Bear in mind the conditions, even the research is “best effort” No one is asking for Fisher Paykel and Tesla to collaborate on a solar powered vent. We need vents that work. nothing more. Best effort is ok here. When the person in the bed is about to have respiratory failure and there aren’t any fancy hospital vents around, I will gladly take the one labeled ‘Noisebridge’ and intubate without a second thought. I see hackaday urging people to make DIY ventilators, and honestly… that’s a rather useful idea.

To be clear, there’s a good chance it wouldn’t be used, but there’s a deeply valuable chance that it might. Either way, leveraging your skills to assemble lifesaving tools for people, is a far more useful way to spend your time than fixating on a mortality rate made from incomplete data, That’s not actionable. I want to encourage you to action. I don’t know how to program a raspberry pi, i’m not a machinist, i’m not a mechanical engineer, my laser cutter is tiny, my 3d printer non-existent. Can you help save lives? Lets at least try. <3

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Relevant to this topic, posted by @Noah on Slack:

Quick guide to making things in a time of crisis:

Excited to see what y’all can do, but a few general guidelines and caveats that everyone should be aware of to make sure that we are helping. It’s really easy to accidentally do harm and take up space, even with the best of intentions right now. Sometimes the best thing is to do nothing and listen, and that’s ok too! But let’s see what you got!

Does the thing already exist?
Should you instead promote or support the already existing thing? Is what you are doing better, more sustainable, reach a different population, etc?

If the thing doesn’t exist, why doesn’t it exist?
It could be that there is a reason for it. Consider checking in with the people who will be impacted or are have relevant expertise in the area first.

Are you going to be able to support the thing for the next few months?
We’re in this for the long haul, so vapor-ware and lack of support are real concerns.

Where should I start?
One EXCELLENT way to go is to think hyper local. Usually, on a large scale there’s someone already handling things, but it doesn’t get all the way to everyone. Where are gaps that are around you? For example, this post is very specific for the Noisebridge community.

From @boredzo: Look/listen for existing needs.

Like, right now, the SF-Marin Food Bank is crying out for warehouse volunteers. If you want to help this crisis, can spare the time, and can risk going out, that’s a great way to help mitigate it for a lot of people. (Plus, food banks always need money with which to buy goods. Consider setting up a monthly donation.)

There’s also been a steep drop-off in blood donations (many of which come from blood drives at workplaces, which are now shuttered). If you’re eligible to donate blood (and yes, some of the exclusion criteria are bullshit), that’s a great way to help with other medical needs that continue to exist amid this crisis.

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Thanks for sharing this, i saw it on slack and was the motivation for the post above. I apologize for its length, but there are some big thoughts, and they take space.