Guest post by Jonna Huseman

What is your profession/involvement in the community?
I have been a dentist in Silver Spring for almost 20 years. I pride myself that the focus of my office is to provide the best and highest quality dental services in the most comfortable and safest setting.
How has your life changed since the community has been impacted by Coronavirus?
I’m certainly not as busy professionally. We’re only allowed to see patients on an emergency basis now.

Personally, we’re just trying to keep certain boundaries as well as maintain our sense of sanity and sense of humor. I have two kids in high school, one of which is applying to college. That has given us restraints and limitations on the SATs, traveling to view certain colleges, etc. My wife and I are just trying to get used to the kids being home. They go to different schools, so they have different types of academic parameters that were set for them. Each of the schools are handling this differently, so we’re getting to see different points of view with that.

Are you working more or less?
Definitely less.

What are you most afraid of?
I am not as much afraid as I am confused. We are all in this together. I want to be compassionate to those people affected by this and to the family members of those people affected by this terrible virus, but I also want to have empathy to all the business owners and workers who have had to shut down and lay off employees. I am concerned about what the societal response to this virus has done to mental health issues and what is has done to our economy. I am concerned about how the stress and anxiety are going to be harmful and ultimately the effects upon individuals and their communities. 

At some point, we are all going to have to live our life according to new societal norms, many of which have not even been defined. We will have to live our lives with some type of inherent risk anyway.

What scares me is what the new norms will look like. How are we going to adapt to the new norms, and what can we implement if something like this were to reoccur? I am not the type of person that doesn’t like my destiny falling into the hands of others, and the decision of others. I like to be in control, and in control of the outcome of things—probably one of the reasons I chose to become a dentist.

What are you most hopeful for?
I’m hopeful that this all ends in a way where people feel safe to be together. People feel safe to go about their lives in a similar way using a little more common sense and a little more distance. Maybe out of all of this we can develop a little more patience for each other. Maybe when we see someone and make eye contact with them, we have more empathy for what they are going through.

What has been the most challenging part of this experience for you?
I had to furlough my staff. Everyone is collecting unemployment. My staff is like my family. I want to be able to take care of them. I feel a responsibility to look out for them.

Day to day, the most challenging part is just filling my time. I’m used to seeing 20 to 25 people a day. Now I’m done by noon and I’m home with my wife and kids. And believe me—with teens, after a few weeks of that it gets old.

I think the other challenging aspect is there was no way to prepare for this. Looking back on it, I wish it was handled differently.

Going forward, I don’t know what the new reality is going to be, and those unknowns have been challenging.

Is there anything—even a tiny thing—you enjoy or like about sheltering in place?
I have a new appreciation for how hard my wife works to keep plates spinning in my house. I have more of an appreciation for the person who works hard and gets laid off or furloughed. I feel terrible that people are losing their jobs and it isn’t by their own doing.

I also have an appreciation for how clean my office is. I want to assure my patients that there is no place out there cleaner or more sterile than my office. I tell my patients this is probably the safest place you’re going to be.

What do you think society as a whole will learn from this experience?
Idealistically, I think that this gives us a greater appreciation for who we are and what we do.

​As a society to move forward, I think we’re going to need a better understanding of who is at risk. We can be close to one another and not be physically close to one another. Communication is always going to be paramount. For example, if people don’t feel well and if they are showing symptoms, they should stay home. 

How are you coping with stress/taking care of yourself?
This has forced me to use my home gym a lot more. I take a variety of supplements and I’m more cautious of my health being an issue. I take my temperature three times a day. I’m also cautious of the health of people around me. Under normal circumstances, we ask patients about their blood pressure, and to try assess if they may have a reaction to the anesthetic. Now, we’re more cautious and focused on their overall health. We’re asking patients how they feel and taking their temperature.

When future generations ask, what will you tell them about this time in your life?
I’m going to tell them that this was something that nobody could see, nobody could really understand. I will tell them that I wish at the beginning the World Health Organization would have treated this differently. I think there was a lot of deception in the beginning.

What would you like your friends and neighbors in Silver Spring/Montgomery County to know?
As soon as Governor Hogan allows dental professionals to go back to work, we will be up and running.

[Editor’s note: After this interview was conducted, the governor allowed all dental offices to resume normal activities.)

Jonna Huseman is a family photographer who serves Silver Spring and beyond. During the COVID-19 crisis, she is using her free time to document the lives of friends and neighbors living through the pandemic.

Author’s note: Over the coming days and weeks I am documenting the lives of dozens of members of the Silver Spring and Takoma Park community. My goal is to talk to teachers and students, religious leaders, small business owners, frontline workers, parents, elected leaders, and private citizens. I want to learn about our collective hopes and dreams, our biggest challenges, and our greatest triumphs. Mostly, I want to build connection and create community at a time when we need it the most. If you live or work in Silver Spring or Takoma Park and are interested in having your life documented at this time—or know someone who has a unique experience and is willing to share—please contact me. To all those who have made this project possible, including Source of the Spring, I thank you for your time and generosity. To the neighbors who will respond in the future, I look forward to getting to know you. And to everyone reading—stay healthy and safe. We will make it through.

Mike Diegel