Letter to the Editor: A Change of Plans

March 15, 2020, 9:30 AM HST (Updated March 15, 2020, 5:22 AM)
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The following does not necessarily reflect the views of Big Island Now, Pacific Media Group or any of their employees. It has not been edited for content. 

“In the five years or so that the Big Island has been my full-time home, a great deal has changed. That change is about to change again, this time by many orders of magnitude, and we should prepare for what has become inevitable; an MEE (mass extinction event) where the dinosaur in danger is our tourism industry. That this is coming is not a surprise (we’ve been warned for many years), but that it comes as a virus with world-wide implications, is. We ignore it at our own peril.

As humans, we have behaved badly and continue to do so. Even if COVID-19 never materializes into the full biothreat we imagine, the fear produced is real and we will soon see and feel its effects. Life in Hawaii may never be the same again. It’s time to rethink ourselves.

When I came to Hawai‘i, I heard the tales of the ‘healing island’ but could not connect to it. Coming from the world of science/technology/engineering, I thought the TMT was a logical and innocent fit. I thought the protests of the ‘60’s was the last I would see. And then I went to the Mauna and saw the dinosaur; it was me. But even dinosaurs can adapt so when the decision for me became life or death (heart surgery or not), I chose life. With gratitude, I came to understand that recovery and healing are complex parts of life and cannot be simplified or diminished. I cannot say for sure that the island helped me to heal, but I feel that it did, and that’s enough for now.

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As an eternal skeptic, I share my thinking that our island could very well BE a healing island. I think it could (perhaps, should) become a medical summit, not just statewide but worldwide. Yes, the five-star resorts, golf courses, restaurants, villas, and the like are impressive but what do they actually produce? Revenue? Bragging rights? Jobs? Yes, and extreme volatility. I suggest that our product (our purpose) should become World-Class Medicine, medical (short and long-term) care, research and learning centers. I see our five-star resorts as five-star specialized campuses and treatment centers. We (the US) have made chaos out of our medical services. Perhaps we (Hawaii) should secede from medicine as it is and rewrite it into what it should be. For starters, we certainly need the doctors here.

And when our ends come, as they inevitably must, I find myself asking the question; Would I prefer my port of departure to be a sunset in Waikoloa or a grey hospital room in Newark? To me, this is not just a no-brainer, it is a noble pursuit, one worth reciting when my time for judgment comes.

And for those of us who still value life based on the denomination of the currency, it is also a viable and rapidly expanding market that is not likely to ‘go away’.”

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