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.
As a child, my son experienced the consequences of single parenting. When my employer asked me to work an extra night shift, I agreed with the stipulation my son could sleep in an empty bed. My son accompanied me to work and walked by rooms filled with equipment that, to a child, must have resembled a space ship. He witnessed what patients experienced. Growing up, too often it was he who listened to me vent my frustrations over patient suffering, recovery versus survival, and the loss of patients to whom I’d grown close.
As my 70th birthday approached, my son asked me what he could give me. “A nice bottle of cabernet,” I said. He delivered one bottle of red wine, a bag of flavored coffee, and the announcement he wouldn’t be getting vaccinated. I managed not to spoil our visit despite feeling blind-sided.
I recovered by the next day and e-mailed my son. “I was selfish to ask for wine. What I’d like is for you to get vaccinated.” I asked him to imagine my grief if I lost my only child.
My son responded with an e-mail:
“I understand and respect your intentions….non-FDA-approved poison will never enter my blood stream. (This occurred before FDA approval.) I have been exposed daily at work, the gym….I’ve been tested upwards to 50 times per my job’s request….I do not fear death….I’ve had my freedom of choice taken from me before….That is something that will never happen again. My body, my right. Don’t forget you raised me. A single mother, nurse, author, activist, athlete, and independent human. You didn’t make this far in life conforming to societal standards or opinions. Enjoy the wine and coffee.”
I told my son he need not fear death; I have enough fear for us both, although I am fully vaccinated with a booster. Dr. Fauci says if you are not vaccinated, there’s a high probability you’ll catch COVID. I brace myself for what may come.