I am unvaccinated. Am I the only such first-person voice here? I am not an anti-vaxxer or anti-masker. I am not anti-science or anti-social. What I am is a member of a neglected minority in the U.S.: those with underlying health conditions.
Month: September 2021
I recall once being asked, as part of a physical exam, “Have you been immunized?” The question wasn’t specific with regard to which immunizations, so my response was that I wasn’t positive. I had done much international travel while growing up, and had received multiple vaccinations at various times, but I wasn’t sure all the recommended vaccinations were up to date at that time.
I am generally a pretty “chill” person who respects personal choice and freedom. As an intensive care physician during a global pandemic, I have witnessed suffering and death on a level that I could not have imagined. When the COVID vaccine was approved (albeit Emergency Use Authorization), in late 2020, we rushed in droves to get the “the jab.” I was flabbergasted and appalled by the politicization of vaccines.
I will recount an encounter with a patient and his spouse that hurt me more than I care to admit.
While sitting on the exam room table in my cardiologist’s office, I began thinking about the many years we’ve had these semiannual appointments. I’ve had not one but two emergency open-heart surgeries.
In a few months, it will be exactly nineteen years since my first surgery, I thought. That means I’ll be starting my twentieth bonus year of life!
I had the privilege of working as a scribe in oncology last year. For several months, we had to severely cut back who was able to come into our clinic. Our patients receiving chemotherapy still came in person, but family members were no longer able to accompany them, robbing them of that crucial emotional support. Many of our other follow-up visits were switched to telehealth: a safer, but not ideal alternative.
Then, we began to have hope again. The vaccines received FDA Emergency Use Authorization.
I retired after forty-three years as an Intensive Care Nurse. I worked at the onset of the AIDS epidemic until AIDS became a treatable, chronic disease. I cared for early cases of MRSA and drug-resistant TB. Working in Dallas, I prepared for a possible Ebola crisis. Imagine my reaction, when my thirty-nine year old son revealed he was an anti-vaxxer.
My work as a physician is a core part of my identity. I work to heal others: not just their bodies, but their spirits and souls. I strive to provide quality health care to the underserved, for I believe health care is a right, not a privilege. I try to leverage health care to empower the disenfranchised through education about their bodies and wellness.