Behind the Hustle
Stories worth telling.
Stories worth telling.
I was fortunate to tag along on this trip – less as a trainer and more as the eyes and ears of DLX. Basically, it was my job to capture the story being told by this project, a story that has already begun to change lives for hundreds of Costa Ricans. As I sat in the San Jose International Airport watching the press conference that announced SOUTHCOM’s donation to the general public for the first time, an emotion I can only describe as genuine, wholehearted pride rushed over me. This story was one of teamwork, of finding alternate routes when presented with roadblocks, and of hope in the face of adversity. For five days prior to the press conference, I witnessed EMTs from CCSS work with DLX trainers and IFR staff for 10+ hours a day – learning the ins and outs of our product line with professionalism, attention to detail, and care both for the equipment and one another. There were extra precautions to keep everyone at the training safe, including on-site cleaning crews, multiple temperature checks throughout the day, mandatory mask changes upon arrival and after meals, hand hygiene requirements, and social distancing reminders. All of these institutions and individuals coming together served as a reminder that sometimes you must look towards tragedy to find the people who want to help.
The culmination of teamwork and emphasis on safety made narrating this story particularly gratifying, as told by the tears shed in the airport.
A STARK COMPARISON
Being in Costa Rica made me realize that not taking preventive measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 is a privilege – plain and simple. We’re granted this option in the United States in part due to a robust medical system and plentiful emergency preparedness resources. In general, if people get sick and need hospital beds our country has them, and the ability to quickly add capacity if necessary. If doctors in the US become infected and are forced to quarantine, there are often others who can fill the gap (the US has more high-ranking medical universities than anywhere else in the world, making it a global destination for doctors). That peace of mind is both wonderful and dangerous all at the same time. Everyone I talked to in Costa Rica offered the same reasoning for why prevention is so prudent: because the country doesn’t have enough resources for a widespread outbreak. Before I could even make my way through customs in the San Jose International Airport, I was screened for a fever and other symptoms. I also required a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours before my entry to the country. You won’t set foot in a market in San Jose, Costa Rica without being greeted by a temperature check and hand washing station, with sanitizer at every turn. Cars are only allowed on the roads during certain hours, dependent on license plates and proximity to virus hot spots. And from what I witnessed, mask wearing is prevalent not just indoors, but shared outdoor spaces as well. With more than 24 million confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide prevention seems like an obvious answer, but one that requires personal sacrifice. A public health campaign in Costa Rica said it better than I can:
“Tu salud esta en sus manos.” Your health is in your hands.
The global collaboration between the US and countries that are a part of SOUTHCOM’s COVID-19 relief project reveals an interesting contradiction: we have so many resources in the US. Enough to share with our allies. Enough to be distinguished as a global leader in the emergency response industry. Yet, we have one of the highest rates of virus infection in the world. Many may point to the freedoms we are accustomed to in the US as a probable culprit. Somehow, adherence to safety guidelines has become synonymous with forgoing personal liberty in some facets of US culture. While I am proud to be an American and privileged to have the right to do what I want, when I want, that freedom feels absurdly self-serving in a time when so many are suffering. My experience in Costa Rica acts as a reminder that our behavior has far reaching consequences. The best way to demonstrate respect, for our own health and for that of our neighbors, is to make prevention a non-negotiable part of our day-to-day lives.
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