Dr. Lina Abujamra: Report from COVID-19 Battlefront

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The Roys Report
The Roys Report
Dr. Lina Abujamra: Report from COVID-19 Battlefront

What’s happening on the COVID-19 battlefront? And how should Christians respond to this rapidly changing crisis?

On this episode of The Roys Report, Dr. Lina Abujamra, a pediatric ER doctor and founder of Living with Power Ministries, joins Julie to discuss this crucially important issue. Lina has been working long, ten- to 12-hour days, responding to those with medical issues in the midst of this pandemic. And she offers not just sound medical advice, but spiritual guidance for Christians seeking to navigate these uncertain times with wisdom and faith.   

This Weeks Guests

Dr. Lina AbuJamra

Lina AbuJamra is a Pediatric ER doctor and founder of Living with Power Ministries. Her vision is to bring hope to the world by connecting biblical answers to everyday life. A popular Bible teacher, blogger, and conference speaker, Lina has authored several books including: ThriveStripped, and Resolved. You can listen to Lina’s podcast on iTunes or Podbean and find her boosting your faith all over social media. Lina is the host of Today’s Single Christian on Moody Radio and of Morning Minutes, a daily audio devotional available on her website.

Show Transcript

Note: This transcript has been edited slightly for continuity.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, how should Christians respond to the Coronavirus pandemic? Welcome to The Roys Report—a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And today I’m coming to you from my home in the Chicago suburbs. Like many of you I’m sheltering in place. So instead of recording at our studios at Salem Radio, we’re recording this podcast through Zoom. And I believe the sound quality is still good, but perhaps not as good as it is normally. But like everyone else, I’m learning to make do and I’m just so grateful that we live in a time where we can work from home and do classes online and churches online and podcasts online. So, praise God for that. I’m also grateful to have with me today Dr. Lina AbuJamra. Lina runs her own ministry called Living with Power, but she’s also a pediatric ER doctor and has been on the front lines dealing with the coronavirus crisis. So, I’m super grateful that she’s taken time out of her extremely busy schedule to join us. And I know she’s going to have just some really important insights on how we, as Christians, should be responding to this crisis. But before we dive into today’s podcast, I want to just take a moment to thank our sponsors. Again, a main sponsor of this podcast is Judson University. And they’ve been fantastic friends and supporters of my work. And I would just ask that you pray for Judson and other Christian colleges and universities just struggling to deal with the coronavirus crisis. Our other supporters are the Illinois Family Institute and Marquardt Buick. If you want to stay current on policies impacting faith and families, I encourage you—check out IFI’s weekly podcast. Just go to IFIaction.org/podcast. Well again, joining me today is Dr. Lina 

AbuJamra, founder of Living With Power, but also a pediatric ER nurse and a wonderful friend and sister in Christ. So Lina, welcome. I’m so appreciative that you took the time.

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  I’m happy to be here, Julie.

JULIE ROYS:  So again, you’ve been up since very early this morning. What, for the past 10 hours doing, what do you call it, telemedicine? 

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  Yeah. I left the ER two years ago and after a career of 18 years in the Children’s Hospital in Chicago– and then at one of the community hospitals. And phased out into telemedicine because of the growing work we were doing in the Middle East with Syrian refugees. And so, my practice in telemedicine has grown tremendously as insurance companies have across the board basically recognized that as a service that alleviates cost and volume overload to urgent cares and ER’s. So over the years we’ve seen it grow to incredible numbers, but nothing like the last two weeks of the coronavirus outbreak. People have avoided going into the ER’s and the urgent cares and doctor’s offices. So, it is now a common thing to hear your patients say, “We called our doctors and they will not see us because we have a fever.” And so, patients have had to use the telemedicine services in order to get care, not only for coronavirus issues but also for regular health issues. And many patients, of course, are scared to go in, and smartly avoiding to go in if they don’t have emergent conditions—so urgent care type things. And so our volumes have gone from typically, and you know, you’ll have 50 to 100 patients waiting in the waiting room on a busy day—to 1500 to up to 1900 at one point, I think, a few days ago, on a regular basis—anytime I tap into the app and try to do work. And so for the past 10 days, I’ve been working a little extra hard, trying to do my share of helping the system and helping people who are looking for care and are willing to wait up to 15 hours at times—and still showing grace to myself when I call them at 4 in the morning because that’s when I start.

JULIE ROYS:  Wow. And so, what percentage of the people who are calling you right now have coronavirus related concerns?

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  I don’t have the actual data, but just my impression looking is about 50% right now, I would say, maybe less, maybe 40%, but not much less than that. And it’s grown tremendously over the course of the week. And the conversations have changed. And I said, literally, it’s a week today—it’s Wednesday, maybe a week and a half. But I remember a week ago Friday, so 10 days ago, I was back in visiting my mother in Florida and the conversations about coronavirus were growing. But still nobody was thinking we would be where we were today, even though we were watching Italy, kind of expand in their issues and in the severity of the problem there. And so, I remember coming home on Saturday, trying to scramble to get my own toilet paper not knowing what would happen. And just all of a sudden, seeing the waiting room go from like, again 100 to 1000 patients. And then that Saturday, Sunday a week ago, I sort of started to make sense of these conversations, knowing very little about coronavirus, and educating myself as I was trying to also figure out what the resources were for patients. And now, 10 days later, people have a good handle on some things and a lot of chaos on other things. And so, my job is to try to triage them appropriately and treat them when I can and provide some sense to most people, who are sitting somewhere in their homes, wondering whether they’re going to die.

JULIE ROYS:  Oh, my goodness. And this must be so scary for folks that actually do have other conditions as well. Because, you know, I heard just this morning that a friend of mine has a kidney stone right now. And, you know, is in incredible pain. And what do they do with that? And she’s afraid to go into the hospital and rightly so. I mean, I can understand that. And so, there’s just the amount of anxiety for our friends and neighbors who aren’t healthy right now. I mean, I’m glad they have your service that they can call but, I mean, this is tough. This is really tough for Christians to be in this situation and not feel anxiety.

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  No question about it. It’s tough for any human and I think Christians are supposed to be able to get a handle on fear and anxiety. But I think we’re also human and I think we’re grappling with readjusting lives. And that’s just a medical part we’re talking about. And of course, so many layers of fear—loved ones who are now, of course, in the last week, as things have exploded, besides doing the medical work, and I’ve been averaging 10 to 12 hours of medical work a day but we’ve also done a lot online. I have a ministry where we do Bible teaching, discipleship and we have really gone on just full, you know, mode. We started a Facebook community group. I’m teaching online. I do these Facebook Lives. I’m educating about coronavirus on Facebook Live with a very, you know, growing people-group that is tuning in and listening. Encouraging people spiritually through what I’ve called “Covid Updates with Dr. Lina”—two, three-minute segments where I just handle you know, every couple of days, sort of an issue that comes up to the surface. And people just bombarding, you know, with of course, their questions. But opportunities to redirect the perspective of the conversation to Jesus and seeing Him just do a work of reuniting people in ways that maybe we had not expected before. People are listening. And so, we’ve really seen immense fruits in what God is doing in people’s lives. And the peace that only God can bring has become much more evident to me as I’ve been able to do some of those endeavors. It’s been exciting.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, that is exciting. And it’s neat to see how something that, you know, Satan intends for evil—no doubt about it—yet God can use it for good. And it is an opportunity, I think, for ministries, like yours and other Christian ministries and churches, to step up. I know, just this week, I was talking with one of our pastors. In fact, he called yesterday. And my husband and I shepherd a group, a small group, with another couple, and we’ve kind of divvied out. It’s kind of a medium-sized group. We call it small group, but it just keeps growing. So, it gets bigger and bigger. But we love, you know, these people under our care. And, so he was shepherding me, but then it was like, well give people in your group a call. And so, we’re all calling and I was saying, you know, some of these people, I haven’t had a one-on-one conversation on the phone. But because of this crisis, or having those one-on-one conversations—and I found out things that were that were going on in their life. And there was kind of that personal one-on-one connection that that we didn’t have. We’re doing our community group, we normally meet on Monday nights. We did a Zoom group. So, we met by Zoom. And it was neat to see how God was ministering through us, to each other, on Zoom on this group meeting you know, using online platforms. But really, I mean, don’t you see this as an incredible opportunity for the church to be the church. Because when there’s pain, when there’s suffering, that is when the church can step up in some ways and be the church in a greater way than maybe it even was before? 

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  Oh, I mean, I don’t have a question that God is using this crisis to purify His church. I think that there’s a lot of money and time and energy spent on church activities that has, I will go as far to say zero value in terms of souls and ministry and care of individuals. And I really believe that all the negative of coronavirus aside and all of the fear, I think there’s something that is going to happen out of this in the way that we do church, that is going to massively and radically change the New Testament church that is now in existence. And I think that is for good. I really believe that.

JULIE ROYS:  Boy, there’s so much I could talk about on that because I’ve seen it, too. And when we even met for church two weeks ago, not this past Sunday, because this past Sunday, we weren’t allowed to be in each other’s homes. But we had neighbors in our home to watch our church service online. And we prayed together. And it was powerful. Even my 17-year-old daughter was like, “Man that that was really cool doing church in a home.” And so, I do think there’s neat things coming out of that. And even with my neighbors, we put notes in some of their mailboxes just saying we’re here to help. If you need anything, let us know. So, I do think there’s opportunities for community. But, let me turn this to the seriousness of corona because it seems like in the Christian community, there’s two camps. There’s one camp that’s saying, “Man, this is really serious, and it’s everything its cracked up to be. And as Christians, we need to be, kind of, on the forefront of taking seriously what our governor tells us. Shelter in place, whatever.” But there seems to be another part of our community that’s saying, “This is a lot of hype. It’s kind of blown out of proportion.” In fact, let me play a clip. This is from Dave Ramsey. And Dave, I guess, at his workplace, one of his employees came down with coronavirus. And David sent out an email then on March 15, soon after, to all of his employees said, “Hey, listen, we’re keeping the offices open. I expect you to report to work.” That email then got published in the Nashville Scene. And we’ll talk about what happened as a result of that. But just a few days earlier, Dave was comparing the coronavirus to Y2K and saying, “People just need to calm down.”

DAVE RAMSEY: You might get the flu; you might get a virus. You’re more likely to die of a car wreck. But you didn’t quit driving cars. I don’t understand you people. Statistical analysis. You didn’t quit. You still smoke. You’ve been smoking for 15 years. We know that kills you. And you don’t stop that. But you’re hiding in your house right now and afraid to come out. This is just, it’s crazy. Hysteria really makes smart people look dumb. Because they are. Their critical thinking skills have melted down. So just go back to Y2K. When your friends are going crazy right now, just look at him and say, “Bless your little heart,” which is Southern for “You’re stupid.”

JULIE ROYS:  Well, again, that’s Dave Ramsey and kind of making light of it—kind of saying hey, if you’re going crazy in this whole thing. I don’t know kind of sounds like he’s saying you’re stupid. He did, after the Nashville Scene, published that he was staying open in an email that he had sent out to his staff on March 20. Then he reversed course and now they are closing their office. But Lina, let me throw this to you. Is this just like Y2K? And are people just overreacting to everything?

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  Look, about three or four weeks ago, when people started hearing about coronavirus in China—before it started crossing the waves and before it hit the dock in Italy—I think there was a sense that it was out there, not over here. And I think we all thought it was like the SARS. I mean, to cut people some slack. And so, there’s a sense that maybe it wasn’t that serious. I remember even being at the dinner table at my sister’s house and my nephew telling me that there was a patient at Northwest Community who had it. And even talking to some of my colleagues and we sort of thought, yeah, let’s see what happens. Like I think, there was maybe some skepticism early on. It didn’t take long to start to see. I think Italy was sort of that wake-up call to most doctors. I really do. I think the idea that a country could be pummeled by a virus to this degree, and of course, everything started happening very quickly at that point. And China had taken immense measures to keep people, you know, socially isolated. And then of course, Italy was late on the game and that. And people use Korea, of course, as a great example, and on and on. But it was very, very quick before people sort of woke up and realized. And the doctor community, the professional community was like, “This is not a joke. Like, okay, this is not the drill. We’re not going outside for fire.” It did not take long and you will not find anywhere right now—anybody in the medical field will tell you, “Yeah, this is just another Y2K.” So, with all due respect to that clip, I hope that was, I don’t know what the date on that was. But my hope is that that was at least 10 days ago, or maybe a week ago—to not make the person who said this sound like he is—so they’re stupid, I think is what he says at the end of the clip. And so, you know, when I hear things like that, that just seems—and again, with all respect, people love Dave Ramsey. He’s given some immensely wise counsel on finances that people will need financial counsel. But there’s a point where you sort of listen to this. And as a doctor, I sort of tune them out. I’m done with that. I can’t listen to that. It’s is just nonsense. And that puts people in danger.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, and I think, too, he was thinking financially, don’t pull everything out. We’ve seen crashes before. And I think he brings some calm there. Although, I don’t think any of us know even financially what’s gonna happen with our stocks or retirement funds. It is a little bit nerve racking. But right, I do think they’re, to be fair to him, we have had disasters happen before in the stock market, and it’s recovered. And so, I do think there’s a point to which you should keep it calm. I’m a little less forgiving to Jerry Falwell, Jr, who recently decided to keep Liberty University open. Everything else is closing. Lina is it safe? Is there a way to do, “safe” being on campus in a dormitory type setting? I do think they have some tents outside and they’re trying to have smaller groups. But is this something we should be doing? I mean, it seems a little crazy to me, but maybe that’s just me.

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  Yeah, I mean, yes, of course. I mean, I think it’s sort of shocking it to a certain degree, and it’s surprising to me that it’s legal. I wonder what leeway the staff and the students would have. I mean, that always comes up. Is this something that they’ll lose their job or what happens if they don’t abide by that? Because I think humans have ultimately a personal responsibility to watch the news, listen and make decisions. You know, we’re not robots. And I think right now is too soon. Again, this is March, I guess, look at the dates, 25th is too soon for people to be in what would be considered sort of a communal living. Now, you know, I think if a teacher goes into her office or his office, and they’re alone, and they’re not meeting, you know, it’s socially isolated running a class from the office, I can understand that. But students in a dorm community, I think you’re putting the students at risk. And I think it is absolutely contraindicated at this point where the numbers in the United States are nowhere near their peak. So, we’re, we haven’t even I mean, I think we’re at what 60,000 today on March 25th. I predict that by the weekend, we’d be well over 100,000 cases. And you do the math, you know. And so, you’re just contributing to that. And so now the conversation of course in the US has been like, when do we go back to normal? And I put a video out yesterday that was, sort of, picked up a lot by people. Because the sentiment was in the video, and you can catch it probably on one of my social media pages. But, in essence, you know, we’re going from Chicago to Florida. We’re not even in Kentucky. And we’re asking, “Are we there yet?” And so, my fear, right now, when people are saying well, “we’re going to go back to normal”, my fear is if people go, “back to normal,” to any degree, is this—I think people think that coronavirus is like the flu. And if somehow you can integrate back into society, and some people will get it, and then you’ll be homesick for a little bit, but everything will sort of go back to normal. I think that’s sort of the crazy part of it is it’s not the flu, right? You’ve got a longer incubation period. You infect more people. And so now you’ve sent 10 kids into a dorm or 20 or 100. Say 5 of them have the coronavirus. They give it to 2.3 other people who give it to 2.3 other people. Now, you know, people who are saying, “Well, I don’t see the point. The ER’s are not, you know, overrun with people.” First of all, that’s ignorance. They are. And secondly, watch New York. I’ve been really sort of baffled by the fact that the American people think that New York is another country. Like they’re over there, and that’s their problem. And we’re over here and we’re okay. You know, we’re in Texas or Alabama or wherever, you know. Even Washington State has done a good job of keeping their numbers down for now, but it is a completely different setup than New York. And of course, Dr. Fauci’s made a point, I think, as of even yesterday to remind people that we’re not doing massive testing. We are doing more and more of it. So, we will have more numbers in the next week or two. So, for Jerry Falwell to say, okay, kids can go back to the dorm is so premature, that there’s just no excuse for it, let alone logic.

JULIE ROYS:  Yeah. Well, and I think of our witness, what is this doing to our Christian witness? I know one of our—a business that I love. I’ve always been a big supporter of Hobby Lobby. They’ve taken some great stands. But I’m just baffled right now that they’re open. And I had a reporter—she’s not a reporter for a Christian outlet. She’s a reporter for a secular outlet. And she reached out to me privately. But I think she is a believer. But she reached out to me and this is what she said—just some personal venting. “Julie, these Christians such as David Greene, who are keeping schools and businesses open, despite government shelter in place orders, are making me so angry. I believe they are sinning. And the Bible specifically calls for us to obey civil authorities God has placed over us unless to do so conflicts with God’s higher law. They need to be called out for their sin. Church worship, one might have a First Amendment argument.” But again, she’s saying this idea that God will protect us from this virus and we can go out there and kind of flaunt our liberty and our freedom, as you said, we need to think not just about our own personal safety, but the personal safety of others—that we become a host and we can carry this disease elsewhere. And so, we need to, again, I’ve been sheltering at home. I haven’t gone anywhere other than a bike ride and a walk. And thank goodness, my husband’s willing to do the grocery shopping, and he does most of that. But, I mean, we need to be thinking about our neighbor as in, don’t infect your neighbor and don’t get infected, so you don’t infect your neighbor. Right?

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  Yeah, and I think it’s gonna become–I mean, the sad thing is, there’s really two scenarios. Really, at the end of the day. I mean, you can be pragmatic about the whole thing. And so, think about it. You can either abide by shelter in place until the numbers level off and there’s more data and there’s more medical not political but medical advice as to what’s okay. And input by doctors who, right now, frankly, are—many of them are too busy and too inundated. Like I’ll literally get asked regularly about things that will flash. Like somebody will write an article somewhere about some medicine or some blood type. And I’m like, man, I don’t—it’s not even in my radar. Like, you know, so you’re like googling it and you’re going, it is so irrelevant to the care of sick patients in that moment, that you can’t even—you know, you’re trying to bring people back to like, “Okay, you don’t need to know that.” That’s like you’re trying to read a Ph.D. paper when you’re still in like the sixth grade. And I’m not being insulting, I’m just being real. Like, I don’t even know that stuff. And so, I think people need to kind of to tune it back a notch and sort of let the medical community get to that stage where they can say, “Okay, now is okay, from a public health perspective, to be back out in the open.” And I think this is hard for people to hear. So, one scenario is, yeah, you listen, and you wait. And it is stressful. And I think we can talk in a minute about the financial implications of this. Which I think is the driver here. People live paycheck to paycheck. They don’t have a six-month reserve, they’re not Dave Ramsey. It’s ironic that he’s pushing his people to go in because if he abode by his principles, they should be able to work from home for six months. And so, it doesn’t make sense to me. Now, in the meantime, there are other scenarios. You say, “Screw it, we’re not going to do that.” We’re going to go back to normal because we’re Americans, and we can do this.” And everyone goes back to normal and you live to see the consequences. Now, are you willing to do that? I mean, what I’ve seen in Italy,, and what I hear from my friends who are on the front lines, it’s already mass chaos. And today I had a conversation with a doctor who has friends in New York. It is not good in New York. And, that’s regardless . . .

JULIE ROYS:  What is it like? What did he say it’s like in the hospitals?

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  Chaos. The word is chaos. People everywhere—even here in Chicago—everybody’s showing up to get tested. And so, and of course, you’ve got to tune out, you know, to tease out the sick people from the non-sick people. The difference is the volumes are bigger in New York, so the hospitals are full. The ICU’s are full. The doctors are getting—many, many doctors have gotten infected. It’s not like this is a real risk. So, I want to ask the American people, in those situations, like what are you going to do when, yes, you go back to normal, but now you no longer have doctors who can manage you? Because they’re all home because they’re sick, or they’re dead? Or they’re on two-week quarantine, you see. Now what are you going to do when you show up to the hospital? Not everybody can do what I’m doing, sit at home and see patients. I’ve seen 100 patients a day on the phone every day from 4 in the morning till 2:30 in the afternoon—every day for the past 10 days. And I have no foreseeable change at this point. And I’m constantly feeling guilty about the fact that there’s a thousand patients waiting when I hang up and say, “I’m done for today.” 

JULIE ROYS:  It’s so hard.

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  So now, yeah, so for the listener who’s like going, what are doctors are excited about? Because we’ve seen lesser disasters, nothing to this degree. And we know the impact of a lesser disaster.

JULIE ROYS:  You know, and I’ve been thinking about what is our responsibility? Like I know my husband and I, a week ago when I heard about this, I’m like, shoot, we should order on Amazon some facemasks. Well, of course, you can’t really get them. But if I do get them now, I realize I can’t keep them for myself. I’ve got to give them to the hospital. I’ve got to give them to the fire department. I’ve got to give—you know, I can’t keep those. I’m not a first responder. And the first responders don’t have enough facemasks. I was reading today, as well, that the food banks—in fact I have a call into our Northern Illinois Food Bank trying to find out some more information. But a lot of these food banks are in crisis situations because they’re not able to stock the food right now. What’s our responsibility as a church to go and help some of these food banks? I think we need to be thinking. I mean, again, we’re believers, we should be different. So, what can we do? How can we reach out? And so, speak to people. Speak to us right now. I mean, maybe, you know, some things I’m not even aware of. What are some things that we can do to begin helping our communities and being a part of the solution instead of part of the problem?

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  Well, I think that that is, right there, the case in point. I mean, I think Christians who are leading the discussion to break the rules set by governors in order to track the people. So rather than saying what can—I mean, we’re doing the very opposite of what one should be doing, right? We’re literally challenging. And now like I’ll give you another example before I– maybe some practical things. But like a Christian school in the Chicago community sent out a letter to students. And I know that because it’s very close to some members of my family. And in one same letter, they announced when the kindergarteners through whatever grade they have, is going to be going back to school. They’ve already set a date to go back in April. And in that same letter, talked about how there was an exposure of coronavirus in that school through a parent. In one letter. And you’re like, “Okay, that is not okay.” You want to know what a Christian should do? It’s not that. You see what I mean? And so now you kind of go well—okay, patience, like the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, kindness, patience, patience. Let things play out. We are 8, 9, 10 days into this. That’s it. It’s simply prayer. Settle down and get on your knees. I honestly—I’m shocked. I see occasional people praying here and there. I am shocked that I have not seen massive movements of prayer in that greater evangelical or whatever we call the Eva-complex. Like it’s still articles on this, articles on that. But we have your prayer movements that are calling people back to God—that are calling people—calling on the Lord for healing. Like, desperate healing. Like, science is doing the best it can. Where are the leaders in the Christian community that are rising now and saying, okay, here’s how this is gonna play out? Now individually, I see a lot of good work being done by Christians. I have so many Christians that send me emails and ask me the question, “How do we help doctors? How do we support them?” And the face mask, sewing of masks for doctors, is something very practical that people have been able to do. Trust me, people have been so kind to me on the phone. Like I can tell, you know, Christians and non-Christians alike, you know, the little kindnesses. I call people after 12 hours of waiting and they’re not complaining. They’re asking—they’re thanking me for taking their call. And there is—and I can tell the Christians. They’ll even say to me, “We’re praying for you.” And little things like this, that when I’m at my wits’ end, I think, “Okay, I can do this a little bit longer.”

JULIE ROYS:  Oh, that, you know, that’s great to hear. And I will say, just actually a few minutes before got on this podcast, so I haven’t really looked into it. But I did get an email from somebody who, I guess, they’re doing a massive online prayer and call to prayer, . . .

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  That’s awesome.

JULIE ROYS: . . . where we all get on and we start praying together. So, I mean, stay tuned for that. I’ll publicize it if get more information. And hopefully we can do these as a Christian—a larger Christian community. I mean, we’ve been doing it as our small groups and as our church community groups. But we need to do this, I think, exactly like you’re saying in a big, collective way be praying for one another. Let me ask you just some really practical questions, though, because I know a lot of people are asking about this right now. One is, and this is what’s so weird about this disease, is it seems to present itself so radically differently with different people. Like some people have no symptoms, zero symptoms, and they can be a carrier. So that’s scary. Some people, it sounds like the incubation period is 14 days. I’ve read an article today that said it could—there was somebody that it was 27 days. That it just can be a very large, long incubation period. So, it makes people wonder, okay, gee, my throat feels a little sore. Should I be calling? Should I be going in? Or wow, I had 102 fever for the past three days. What should I do? So, speak to those people who right now are thinking, you know, when do I know it’s time to do something? What do I do?

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  Yeah. I mean, I sort of think I’ve read that there’s four categories. I’ve really boiled it down to three categories in my mind. And there’s the asymptomatic carriers, there’s the typical sick—fever, cough, trouble breathing, sort of that triad that everybody’s familiar with now. Plus or minus other things that will come up. Like now, the newest article someone sent me—it’s like loss of smell, taste and smell. So today, we had a person with a chief complaint, of course, I can’t smell. Like, I mean, it’s just funny because there’s no other symptoms or diarrhea. You know, so they’re like—and I remind people that part of the bad cases, like fever, cough, shortness of breath. So you’ve got asymptomatic. You’ve got the typical symptomatic of what would look like the flu. Another blessing is I think the flu numbers are trending down now. So, it’s easier sort of to tell the difference. And then you’ve got that—sort of a lot of people now that present with what I would call bronchitis/cold symptoms—that you’re like, I don’t know, I guess it could be. But it could also be a cold. But what I know for those people is you don’t have to be tested and you don’t have to go in because you’re going to get better. Now, if they have high risk factors, they might need to be tested for a number of other reasons. And so, that’s what I tend to do a lot with people is answer those questions. And apart from those very sick people—so, there was a season a couple of, maybe a week and a half ago, where the asymptomatic ones was, you know, we were hunting down like travel related contacts and exposures. And I think now we have enough numbers to where—I don’t know that those factors are a point anymore. I mean you might be an asymptomatic carrier. We don’t, I mean, it could be for anyone. I think that is what it is. I think really the people that I’m worried about now are the ones who present with fever, cough, shortness of breath. And here’s what I found. I’m finding more and more, as we get into this, it’s not that hard to see until when you have it. It’s not like an enigma. Do I have it or not? It’s getting now to a phase where I can tell who has it. And then when we get into it, and clinically, I now have a good sense of who has it. And that’s without exposure risks. Am I right every time? I don’t know because I’m not running the sample. But these people are sick. And those are the ones that need to be at the front of the line getting tested, go into the hospital and those numbers are going to continue to grow. And so, if you’re the person with a sore throat, a little bit of the sniffles, don’t stress it. You’re the person who should be using telemedicine. Don’t rush to the ER. Those are the people who are now going to the ER’s—going, “We want to be tested” and being asked to go home. If you have the coronavirus, it is so mild. It’s a moot point. And everybody should be taking some social isolation precautions, some measures of Clorox wipes the house, those things that we have been now trained to think about. Sneeze into your hand etc., etc. But if and I tell people now, the last thing I’ll say about this, like, I’ll get couples now who call and it’s clear that one of them might have it. Well, they’ve been in the house for a week, right? So, you can quarantine them. But what’s the point? Because the person who’s with—you know, yeah, now if you know they’re positive, sure, shut the door to the room they stay in, but you’ve already been around your spouse for the last week. And so, the odds are, they’ve already been exposed. So, it sort of seems like they’ll go out of your house, practice social isolation, but you don’t have to, like, wear some kind of astronaut suit in your own house. You just have to sort of still stay away from the kids, stay away from the grandparents. Take a little more seriously some of those things that you might have been lax on before.

JULIE ROYS:  And what about—I was reading an article, too, that was saying, the first few days it often resides in the throat and that there are some things we can do like drink hot liquid?

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  There’s no—I mean, all of these things are not harmful. It’s like when you have a cold, you take vitamin C. Is it gonna keep you from getting a cold? Maybe, but I mean, you know, like, it makes you feel good. Like you did something. But if you’ve got a virus, it’s going to give you a cold– that sort of many factors play into it including how stressed you are, how tired you are, how, you know, how much viral loads you’ve had. Which is, again, why we try to maintain distances and Clorox wipe everything in your house, etc. And so, no, I mean, these are all good things, you know. Do them. And it gives you something to do, you’re sitting in a house for now.

JULIE ROYS:  But you’re saying it doesn’t really do anything, right? 

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  No, there’s no treatment, other than symptomatic care—just supportive measures. Most people, 81% because the number that started now, will do really well. And 3%, again, the number that started, we don’t, not exact because we don’t know how many have it and how many are dying, but let’s say up to 3% are dying. And then sick people in between. The load on the medical system and I’ll repeat that why this is such a big deal. If you look at the percentages of how many people could get it in the United States, and just extrapolate based on what we’ve seen so far, how many of those could get really sick? And how many of those could need an ICU bed? And how many of those—the system cannot manage it. And we’re seeing that now play out in New York City. This is key. You’re seeing it play out. And you go, “Well, we’re not in New York City. We live in Iowa, everybody lives in,”—okay. Then go out to the restaurant and see what happens in a week. But that’s, again, you used the word at the beginning of the show. It’s just I’m not going to use the same word—that’s just not smart. I’m not gonna say stupid, but it’s just not smart. And so, when you go back to normal, I think you have to give it a little bit more time. I don’t know the answer to that. I appreciate the sentiment of optimism. But I think still, it’s too soon—that I can tell you—to make those predictions. It’s too soon.

JULIE ROYS:  And right now, what is the situation when it comes to testing? I’m hearing—

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  Much better.

JULIE ROYS:  It is better?

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  Much better. You can get a test within, in some places, 4 hours, but 24 hours is sort of standard. We were at 4 days before. Now I have people, my friends, who will tell me. I’ll be like, “Oh yeah, I have a friend who’s diabetic, had a fever, I felt like they need a test.” I don’t order the test, I said to them, “Here’s what you need to do. Call the COVID hotline.” And I’m thinking they’re gonna be on the phone for hours. I had two people in the last 24 hours that I know outside of my work that called and have already been tested. 

JULIE ROYS: Oh, that’s fantastic.

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  If they need it. What you’re not going to get is that 24-year-old or a 35-year-old who has a scratch in his throat, or her throat. And they’re like, “I just want to know if it’s COVID.” You know, you might—there are some places in the United States that are doing random testing, but I’d be shocked if that person gets to test because you got to save it. There’s an order of—there’s clinical symptoms. It’s like if I went in today and said, “I want a flu test.” I’m not going to get a flu test. “Well, I want an X-ray of my chest. I want to see if I have pneumonia.” Well you have symptoms. And so, there’s a logic to it. So, if you meet criteria, and doctors quickly are very comfortable now in making those decisions and nurses and allied health professionals. I mean this is—a week is a short time but it’s also a long time when you’re thinking about it and seeing it. And so, trust the process. The health departments are working hard. It is much better than it was. Can it get better? It will be better. It will be better. They’re working on fast tests. So, I’m optimistic about all of those things. The numbers will come in. There’s no question in my mind. And you’re seeing it by seeing how many—today 60,000 patients, by the end of the week, I believe we’ll be over 100,000. Some of that is because people are being tested. We’re a big country with 300 million people, many of whom have flown through New York City. And we’re gonna start seeing those increases. Not a reason to panic. But now you can build data and you can make conclusions so that Dr. Fauci and his team can come on the news and say here’s a logical date when you can go back to normal as opposed to making a prediction ahead of time and you’re living to regret it. And I think people will start to regret it when close loved ones will start to hurt. And I think until then, I think people will complain. I grew up in Beirut in the middle of the Civil War and that’s the case. It’s when it hits you or hits close to home. When a bomb hits your house, it’s much more personal than when it’s done in another city. And so, I hope we don’t learn the hard way.

JULIE ROYS:  I hope so, too. And I mean, it’s interesting, your perspective, having grown up in Lebanon and experiencing being in a war zone. I mean, this is a war zone. Right? 

LINA ABUJAMRA M.D.:  This is a war zone. In some ways, I mean, different. But in some ways worse. In some ways it’s a new challenge. We I grew up in the war, we were used to it. This is a new product, a new way and against everything American. I’ve been in the United States long enough to know this is everything that is not what we’re used to.

JULIE ROYS:  Oh, it’s so unusual. I mean, I’ve never in my lifetime, have I seen this, and I know people are comparing it to the Spanish flu. Well, none of us were alive during the Spanish flu. So, and we kind of think we’re beyond that with our modern medicine, but we’re really not.

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  But wait. But we are. But I do think—I mean, I’m—this is my optimism is: A) We believe the world can heal any second and this can go away. Today in this, I don’t have any doubt about that. But even from a science perspective, I don’t have a question that a year from now there’ll be a vaccine. Honestly, I wouldn’t want to stay in the house for a year. No, but you don’t have to. There’s so much happening on the backside of science. But we’re a week into it. I go back to reminding people like, literally, there hasn’t been enough time for this, for us to be talking about, you know, about when we are going to go back to church, right? Having said that, I think—or, by the way, or the dorms or students who could be doing things online and now are putting themselves in harm’s way. Or a kindergarten class who could be doing—I  saw my nephew do a Zoom class with his teacher. I know it can be done. Sat through the whole thing. He could sit for four hours on that. It’s doable, it is doable. That’s the part that baffles you is why are we pushing to put people at risk when there are ways that you can creatively create space for the people who need to come up with the technologies, do it?

JULIE ROYS:  Right, absolutely. And Liberty University, which we were talking about earlier. I mean, they have what 100,000 people who are taking classes online. They’re experts at it. This is ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous. I did have a question regarding the tests. I know at one point—I’m glad to hear we can get them a lot quicker now. How long does it take for the results to get back?

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  As soon as 24 hours. No, I mean, most people are within 24 hours. And the 4-day waits are no longer the case. Again, and I don’t want to I mean, I haven’t caught up today. I don’t. I literally finished seeing patients and got on the phone and everything is changing day by day. But I mean for me, expectation of 24 hours is not unreasonable. I think it can—it’s faster in some places. It’s much better. Yeah. This is, again, a week into it. It’s incredible. So, there is more testing. It will—and then I think people will always look back and say, “Could they have started it sooner?” I mean, in December, China was talking about the coronavirus. “Well, why didn’t we start doing it?” Then no. It was like it was over there. This is why again, play the same scenario. We’re looking at what’s happening in New York, and we just think it’s like another China, right? I mean, it’s just the way that we’re handling it. It’s like it’s some other city. You know, “everything  that happens there stays there.” On the contrary, how many people have flown in and out? How many? I mean, just start thinking about the implications. And it is a lot—and New York is a lot closer to Iowa than you might think.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, and that’s the thing. Right now, we’re seeing how integrated our world is, you know. I mean, when the Spanish flu was happening, to get from Europe to the US, they had to take a ship, which took several weeks. I mean, now it’s a flight and we are, we have a global economy. It’s totally different. And so, we’re in unchartered territory. And we’re seeing people. you know, like you said, this is gonna really hit home when it’s loved ones. I know for me, something that made this hit home for me was and again, this is someone from kind of my generation. Sandi Patty, singer songwriter, so many of us familiar with her. And she recorded a video and put it on Facebook, and here she has tested positive for COVID now. And she’s in the high-risk group. And it really struck me, you know. Hearing her voice and hearing what she had to say. In fact, I pulled a clip from it. I thought it would be helpful to even listen to it and hear her, in her voice, describe what she’s going through.

SANDI PATTY:  There was a thing I want to say to everybody. This is not fake news. This is real. This is everything that they say that it is. And we’ve just got to take it seriously. I’m really, really thankful that Don and I are first taking it seriously for ourselves. And when we make the right choice to quarantine ourselves, not only are we protecting ourselves and thinking about ourselves, it is the right decision for everybody else, too. And secondly, I’m really thankful that we have a church that decided we can still have community online. And so, you know, we’ve been doing online rather than bringing out our large numbers together on Sundays and Wednesdays. So more to come in the days to come. I’ll keep you posted on how we’re feeling and all of that. But do your part. That’s all you can do. We can’t do everybody’s part for them, but we can do our part. So do your part. It’s wisdom. And God has also given us faith, but He’s also given us wisdom. So, this is the time to utilize that wisdom. So that’s all I have to say about that. Except I wish you could see my husband sitting in the chair. He’s been yawning so bad. Because [phrase not transcribed.] So, thank you for being attentive. [phrase not transcribed.] And God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind. So, I pray that all those aspects of God will be shown to you. Okay. Please take care of yourself. Wash your hands, moisturize and all that stuff. And be safe.

JULIE ROYS:  I love the way she answers that, at the end you know, God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind. That’s what we can rest in as Christians. Did that hit you the way it hit me when you heard that Lina?

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  I mean it says—that was about four days ago I saw it on something like that. And I honestly my thought was, she’s not as well as—I mean, as a doctor, I thought man, she looks a little sick. I would honestly say that I felt like she was winded and trying to put a good face on for people. And I respected that she did that video. And yet that was four days ago before people, before the frenzy. Where now, the conversation I’m hearing now—again every day is a mass shift. Which, when I first saw that, people were still on board this, “Ah, we’re going to stay home.” We went on in my town in Chicago, we went on shelter-in-home, not quite on lock-down. And now, like in the last 24 hours, the shift and momentum of, “We want to be back by Easter. We want to be back out doing our normal stuff.” Okay, maybe not completely normal, but somewhat normal. And so, how quickly we forget. And so, all I think about when I hear even now, I think she sounds even more short of breath than I remembered. And so, she’s making it one step at a time. And I think this is the point that I think doctors are trying to make. It is not a simple flu. It is like the worst flu that you’ve ever had in your life, if you have a good outcome, as opposed to the people who get admitted. Once you get admitted, you know that you’re in bad shape. And of those a lot of people end up dying. If you get on the vent—you’re, that’s you see, that’s the problem. And so, I know that people have been sort of focused on, “Well it’s still elderly.” Or, you know, every asthmatic is nervous because there’s been a big press about the fact that it affects the lungs. And so, everyone’s calling in for inhalers. You know, but I think at the end of the day, it’s so, you know, it’s not just them that suffered. It’s everybody. I mean, Sandi Patty’s not that old. There’s been others now in the news that have been younger. And you can see it, they’re not well, you know. They’ve talked about their experiences, many of them and you can catch those. It’s not something to be taken lightly. I’m certainly not taking it lightly. And to be honest, as a doctor, they may come right now. I hear in New York, they’re calling all doctors not just ER doctors, but ophthalmologists, gynecologists, people that have not been in emergent care, to man the ER because there’s not enough doctors. And the doctors are themselves getting infected. So, they’re going to have to leave—some sicker than others—for a couple of weeks. And so, they’re calling all of those people in in Illinois. They’re calling retired doctors to come back and work. I know I’m doing telemedicine now, but the day will come—and I’ve looked at possibilities of deploying with Samaritan’s Purse and praying in wisdom over whether I should deploy to New York City. And honestly, I’m scared. And I have the Spirit of God in me. And, you know, I know that. But I also want to do the smart thing. And I want to help the most people. But I also want to live boldly and smartly. And so, think about that, as we’re thinking about integrating our lives. Think about people like me who don’t have a choice that they will come when there’ll be enough sick doctors. If we continue, you know, taking lightly, or if we go to take it. Because I don’t think people are taking it too lightly now. But if we change our stance and start taking it lightly, you’re putting us at risk. And we don’t mind it up to a certain degree. But there’s a point where, like I said earlier, like, what are you going to do when you don’t have a doctor anymore to care for you? And incidentally, many people have experienced that now in the primary care settings where they have fever, and cough, and they’re told do not come to the office. And so, what are you going to do when now you don’t have an ER doctor? You’ve got a gynecologist trying to manage your airway. Right? And that’s not a good place to be, Americans. And so that’s, I think, the dynamic of medicine that doctors are aware of and people are not. And so, you think what’s the big deal? Well it might not be until you’re in the hospital and wondering what’s going to happen to you because there’s not a doctor or a nurse or a respiratory therapist to help manage your care.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, yeah. And the best thing we can do right now is be as careful as we can be and be safe. And Lina, you mentioned prayer. And so, I want to end this by giving you an opportunity to pray for us as a Christian community, but also for our neighbors, for our country, for our world, as we face this coronavirus pandemic. So, would you pray for us?

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  I’d love to. Our Father in heaven, we are so thankful to know You. We’re thankful that our hearts are connected to You through your Son, Jesus Christ, and that we could come boldly into Your presence and ask for peace. And so, God, right now, I ask for peace in the midst of chaos. But there are so many people who are so afraid. I ask that Your Spirit would just immerse through Christians to touch the lives of those who are struggling with anxiety, with depression, with fear, with stress, with how they’re going to manage their families with the tensions in the home. But God, I pray with all my heart that You would bring healing to this coronavirus. God, simple prayer Lord but I pray that God, yeah, that You would be with the sick, that You would be with the American people who are trying not to spread infections. But God, simply put, that You would heal us of the coronavirus however You choose to do it. Lord, we believe that You are the God of all miracles. You’re the God of the Old Testament and the New. You brought up all the plagues and then You stopped them in a second. You opened the Red Sea and allowed Your peoples to go through it. God You did this over and over again. And then You brought yourself down to earth in the form of Christ and rose from the dead. So we know You can do anything. And so, God, in the name of Christ, I ask that You would heal our lands. God, not just United States but all over the world to think about the impact on countries who don’t have the infrastructure and the technology. India are populated with billions. God, we pray that You protect people, that You would shed Your light through to many, Father, so that many would come to faith through this disaster that has come upon us. So God, we recognize that we are sinners. We repent of our sins. We ask that You would use this crisis to bring us to full repentance as Christians, Lord. That we would come to a place of reckoning that there are things that we have done that have been contrary to the way that You want us to live. And God to do it, that we would go back to the purity of the gospel, to loving our neighbors, to understanding one another, to sharing Jesus with one another. And God, I pray that You would use this as an opportunity for us to see redemption in a massive way throughout the world. We thank You God, that You’re a God who hears us—that You’re a God who loves us, that You’re a God of healing, not of sickness. That You are a God of light and not of darkness—of peace and not of chaos. And that even in the midst of this, Your presence is real and near us. And we give You all the honor and the glory. God we ask Jesus that You would come back soon and reign over this world. Father, we long for You. Our hearts, in these seasons, long for more of You. Bring deliverance in every aspect of our life. And we give You all of the honor for all of these things. In Jesus name I pray, amen.

JULIE ROYS:  Amen. And that’s a powerful prayer. And you can see why Lina’s—the name of her ministry is Living With Power. Lina, how can people connect with you if they want to get those daily updates that you’re doing? Which are fantastic, by the way. I’ve been following those and just really enjoying them.

LINA ABUJAMRA, MD:  Yeah. The best thing to do is go to LivingWithPower.org. It’ll connect you to everything we’re doing. Join our community. We have live, every Thursday, from seven to eight. I’m doing live Bible studies with our community and then through our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, you can access all of those from our site. You’ll be able to catch all of those videos. So email me on the contact page, if you have any questions. I’ve asked people to do that. And they have a lot of medical questions. I’m brief in my responses, but I try to answer just about everybody who’s emailed me. I think I have a couple waiting still for today’s email. So go to the contact page at LivingWithPower. org.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, thank you so much, Lena. I’ve so enjoyed this and thanks so much for listening to The Roys Report—a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. If you’d like to connect with me, just go to julieroys.com. I hope you have a great day. Stay safe. Stay well and God bless.

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2 thoughts on “Dr. Lina Abujamra: Report from COVID-19 Battlefront”

  1. Harry V. Viernes

    We just learned about you only about 3 months ago. We are thankful for your ministry. We see how God is using you to wake up the Christians in America to THINK. We are sad about the state of American leaders living their lives selfishly and living in sin. We are an old couple (in our 70’s) and have been working in the Philippines since 1978. We are independent. God has blessed and we have a small Bible Institute helping young people and a Christian elementary and high school in Baguio City with 180 students. We are a ministry and thankfully God has given us enough to support all of our students through the years and support about 25 teachers who work in our school. Thank you for sharing the news from Dr. Lina. It was very helpful. The Philippines has been on shut-down with our schools since March 12 and the country since March 20. Again, thank you for what you are doing. We feel so sad to hear about Christian colleges and leaders giving into this new trend: transgender, abortion and etc. Because we are strong Roman Catholic country, so far we have been protected because they vote against some of the laws that are introduced for change. We have no divorce, no abortion, no transgender marriage and so the family is still strong but Satan is busy trying to destroy this. Know you are busy, did not mean to make this so long. Just wanted to say: thank you and God bless.

  2. Unchurched follower of Jesus

    If God is using the virus to bring the world to repentance, then why should we be praying for God to stop the virus?
    I have been praying that those who need to be shaken by God will be shaken.
    But I have also been praying that the innocent will be spared.
    I am happy that churches are closed so people will connect with God directly without the middleman (pastors, priests). that they will read their Bibles and pray and sing by themselves.

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