Keith Wheeler-a Cross and COVID

No, I wasn’t mad at God, I know that bad things happen to everyone. Jesus said that whoever wants to save their life should lose it, (Luke 9:24) so I know that either way I would be with Him. Jesus is my hope, my confidence, and peace, in all my life, including COVID.

If you missed part 1 of this series, you may want to read it first.

a man with a cross over his shoulder

Keith Wheeler- a cross and a collarbone

Keith walks around doing what he simply calls “serving God, loving people.” He started in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Good Friday 1985 and thought it was going to be a one-time event. But he felt God wanted him to continue carrying the cross around the surrounding towns, then the rest of Oklahoma, and on into surrounding states. And then he just kept walking- and carrying the cross.

In it, I introduced you to Keith Wheeler who has walked around the world-literally; he has covered over 25,000 miles on all 7 continents. He can’t say how many countries, since names and boundaries change, but it’s at least 180. And on every step, he has carried a 90 pounds, 12 feet by 6 feet cross draped over his shoulder.

Keith does this because he loves Jesus, and he wants people to know that Jesus loves them too. In his own words,

“I love God and I love the people of the world. To me, ministry is simply the overflow of a life lived in love with Jesus. I feel that Jesus has many servants but very few friends. It’s one thing to be called a friend; it’s another to actually be a friend. I want to be His friend.

2020-a travel interruption

After trips to Tuvalu, Brazil, the Caribbean, and Northwest Territories, Canada in early 2020, Keith’s travels were interrupted by the pandemic in March. For the rest of 2020 he walked through the Tulsa Oklahoma area, near his home and even made it to Washington, D.C. where he encountered some people he knows from Tulsa.

Keith in Washington, D.C.

I’ll tell you more about his 2020 activities in the next post of this series.

2021- travel resumes; then another interruption

He travelled to Paraguay in March 2021 despite difficult pandemic travel restrictions.  By the time he landed back home at Tulsa International Airport he was feeling unwell. Over the next day he continued “feeling a little puny”, with a sore throat and stuffy nose. He consulted a physician who recommended a nasal swab viral test-and so on March 21, 2021, Keith was diagnosed with COVID-19.

A special time with Jesus

On Keith’s Facebook page from March 21 through 28, 2021, he described his “COVID timeout”. He did a series of videos from his study, where he keeps his second cross that has been retired. He spent much of his time there, to remain isolated from his family. He called this a “special time with Jesus.”

In November 2021 I visited with Keith by video to talk about his life, his ministry, and specifically his COVID-19 illness. As I mentioned in part 1, it’s hard to interview Keith about himself, because invariably he turns the conversation back to Jesus. But that’s how he lives his life, so to meet Keith is to meet Jesus.

This part will be in interview format with me as AO and Keith as KW. It is edited for clarity and  I’ve inserted some background information for context.

The interview-November 2021

AO: Keith, how did you feel when you learned you had COVID-19? Were you a little mad at God, after all you caught it while you were travelling on his behalf? Did you worry that you might die of COVID?

KW: No, I wasn’t mad at God, I know that bad things happen to everyone. Jesus said that whoever wants to save their life should lose it, (Luke 9:24) so I know that either way I would be with Him. Jesus is my hope, my confidence, and peace, in all my life, including COVID.

AO: Keith, what was COVID like for you? How did you manage the symptoms?

KW: I had sniffles, a sore throat, and chills. I lost my sense of smell; and I still don’t have it for bad smells. The worst was my mental focus was off, so much so I couldn’t read.  I was sleepy and slept a lot. I kept myself hydrated, took vitamins, and concentrated on breathing.

AO: And what about your wife?

KW: Nicole was out of town when I got home from Paraguay and got diagnosed with COVID. So I had time to sanitize the areas of the house I had used and moved upstairs before she returned.  

She would leave meals at the bottom of the stairs, I would come down, take it back up. I would sit at the top of the stairs eating and she sat at the bottom, so we could still have meals together. When I felt up to it, we went outdoors for walks-she walked on the sidewalk and I walked in the middle of the street, 6 feet away.

In his COVID timeout videos, each day he said he was “doing well”, and by the 24th,  he was “better”. By Sunday March 28, he ended isolation-fitting since that was Palm Sunday, the day Christians remember Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey; a week later he would be crucified on a cross like the one Keith carries. (John 12:12-14)

By Good Friday, April 2, 2021, Keith was back out on the road, carrying the cross in Florida.

I’m sorry I haven’t posted much since my Covid “timeout”! Lots of fun things have been going on… As we carried the cross in Florida on Good Friday so very many precious, beautiful people came to the cross…

Of course, the pandemic was still active, so when necessary, Keith masked up-in his own style of course.

HAHA! WAAAY better than the “standard” blue face mask!

Keith and I talked about lessons learned from the pandemic and his thoughts on the division that has rocked our nation this past 2 years. He calls this a “season of adjustment” in which we have “missed the presence of Jesus.” I’ll share more about that in part 3, as well as a unique encounter right here in Tulsa.

Exploring the HEART of health with Keith Wheeler

I know you are intriqued with Keith’s unique approach to service, so please come back in a couple of weeks for part 3 in this series.

I appreciate all of you who are following Watercress Words, and if you aren’t I invite you to join the wonderful people who are. You can meet some of them in the sidebar, where you can click on their image and visit their blogs. Use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me.

a world globe with two crossed bandaids

Doctor Aletha

Talk to your doctor about COVID-19

I am asking you to make your personal physician your first line source for understanding the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the available vaccines.

On September 9, 2021, President Biden addressed the nation from the White House briefing room, sharing

where we are in the battle against COVID-19, the progress we’ve made, and the work we have left to do.

His remarks outlined a series of executives orders and recommendations which have been met with controversy; I will briefly list them but there was one that I think no one can disagree with. He asked the nation’s family physicians, and I am one, to talk to our patients about the vaccine.

I’m already doing that and I think most primary care doctors are. But I think he should have taken it one step further, and that is to ask Americans to

Talk to your doctor about COVID-19

a female physician talking to a male patient
photo from the LIGHTSTOCK.COM collection (affiliate link)

Like most of you, I am on social media, not just professionally but personally, and I have been appalled when people I know pass around information that is unverified, unreferenced, contrary to science, inflammatory, conspiratorial, and sometimes just plain nonsense.

I absolutely support anyone’s right to have an opinion and share it, but labeling opinion as truth when it may or may not be true is irresponsible. And I somewhat agree with Mr. Biden when he said ” These pandemic politics, as I refer to, are making people sick, causing unvaccinated people to die. “

So I am asking you to make your personal physician your first line source for understanding the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the available vaccines.

Your doctor may not be an expert on the pandemic; we are all working overtime to keep ourselves informed and still take care of the myriad of other health conditons our patients bring to us. But the advantage is your doctor knows you, and any medical decision ultimately boils down to what you and they decide working together, it’s called “shared decision making.”

What if your doctor recommends against the vaccine? That’s possible because I know there are some medical professionals who have taken the minority opinion on the safety of the vaccine. I do not understand their position; some of the high profile ones are known for consistently taking a stance against mainstream medicine. If that’s the case for you, I encourage you to ask why they lack confidence in the vaccine and what would it take for them to change their minds. Ultimately, the choice one way or the other is yours, so be sure it is a truly informed choice.

Michael Munger, M.D., consults a patient at his medical office in Overland Park, Kan.
Photo compliments of American Academy of Family Physicians

President Biden’s plan

You’ve probably read or heard it in the news by now, but here is an outline of his major points.

Large employers, those with 100 or more employees, should require vaccination or weekly testing

Vaccination required for all federal employees and contractors

Vaccine required for employees in all healthcare facilities that are paid by Medicare and Medicaid, and all federally funded educational facilities like HeadStart

Large venues such as sports or concerts to require vaccination or negative test for entrance by patrons

Home tests available at cost at Amazon, Walmart, and Kroger

Federal funding for testing at schools and salary protection for teachers who protect children

Continue mask requirements on interstate travel and in federal buildings

Calling on the states’ governors to support viral mitagation measures in schools

President Biden Visits NIH Vaccine Research Center
NIH immunologist Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett speaks to President Joe Biden about the fundamental research that contributed to the development of the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines when the President visited NIH’s Vaccine Research Center on February 11, 2021. Credit: NIH/Chiachi Chang

Here is my previous review of President Biden’s original plan to deal with the pandemic as he took office in January 2021.

2021-National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness

President Biden, Vice President Harris, and their science and healthcare teams have developed a plan with 7 goals to end this pandemic and prevent others. You can read the entire 200 page report at the link. Here is a list of the 7 goals with a few of the points of each goal.

1. Restore trust with the American people.
  • establishes a federal COVID-19 response team to coordinate efforts
  • regular public briefings led by science experts
  • track and make data available to the public by the CDC
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) activated its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to coordinate with the World Health Organization (WHO), federal, state and local public health partners, and clinicians in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak. CDC is closely monitoring the situation and working 24/7 to provide updates.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) activated its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to coordinate with the World Health Organization (WHO), federal, state and local public health partners, and clinicians in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak. CDC is closely monitoring the situation and working 24/7 to provide updates credit James Gathany, public domain
2.Mount a safe, effective, and comprehensive vaccination campaign.
  • increase the production of vaccines
  • give states clearer projections on vaccine availability
  • partner with states to create more vaccine centers
  • launch a national campaign to educate and encourage Americans on vaccine
3. Mitigate spread through expanding masking, testing, data, treatments,health care workforce, and clear public health standards.
  • asking Americans to wear masks for 100 days (note-this adds to any state or local recommendations or mandates on mask use)
  • require masks on public transportation
  • the CDC develop guidelines to help schools and businesses to reopen
  • create programs to develop new treatments for COVID-19
cloth facial coverings to prevent transmission of COVID-19
Mask use required on airplanes, trains, and other public transportation
4.Immediately expand emergency relief and exercise the Defence Production Act.
  • increase emergency funding to the states for pandemic costs, including for PPE and use of National Guard
  • invoke the Defense Production Act to increase the supply of PPE, and testing and vaccination supplies
5. Safely reopen schools, businesses, and travel while protecting workers.
  • develop a national strategy to reopen most schools within 100 days
  • federal agencies to issue updated guidance on protection for workers
  • asks Congress to provide financial aid to schools, universities, and daycares (cost in the billions)
a girl with a large backpack, walking to a school bus
6. Protect those most at risk and advance equity, including across racial, ethnic and rural/urban lines.
  • establishes an equity task force to address disparities based on race, ethnicity, and geography
  • create a U.S. Public Health Workforce to help with testing and vaccinations in their communities
Healthy People 2030, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Retrieved [date graphic was accessed], from https://health.gov/healthypeople/objectives-and-data/social-determinants-health
7. Restore U.S. leadership globally and build better preparedness for future threats.
  • rejoin the World Health Organization
  • increase humanitarian aid and support efforts to fight COVID-19 around the world
  • asks for Congressional support to establish a national center to prepare for future biological threats
2 bandaids crossed on a world globe
photo from the Lightstock collection (affiliate link)

Exploring the HEART of health

I appreciate all of you who are following Watercress Words, and if you aren’t I invite you to join the wonderful people who are. You can meet some of them in the sidebar, where you can click on their image and visit their blogs. Use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me.

By following this blog, you’ll know when I post additional pieces reviewing the COVID-19 pandemic as well as other topics that explore the HEART of health.

2 oval plates with words "thank you"

Dr. Aletha

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