The current COVID surge has been the hardest of all. Like many of my colleagues, I was physically and emotionally spent before it even began. But more than the exhaustion, what’s made it so difficult for me is that it didn’t have to happen. We have a safe and effective vaccine that’s widely available. While vaccinated individuals may still be infected, they make up a small number of people requiring hospitalization and ICU care. In advocating for vaccination, it feels like healthcare workers have become public enemies.
Last summer, patients were so grateful for any care I could provide, even in the face of so much uncertainty. One woman was brought to tears when I held her hand. She told me she could feel my warmth even through my gloves. Another patient told me it was okay if I didn’t examine him because he didn’t want me to get sick.
This time around, the dynamic with my patients has taken on an adversarial tone. One patient screamed at me to leave his room because I was annoying him as I tried to explain that his illness had become critical. We were preparing to put him on a ventilator because his oxygen levels were dangerously low. Another patient refused to answer any of my questions until “you find a way to get me out of here.” That patient also required a ventilator within hours of this conversation due to critically low oxygen levels.
In a moment of despair, I posted on Twitter about what this surge has been like at my hospital. I sent a plea into the Twittersphere for people to get vaccinated. My post went viral. Many reached out with words of support and thanks for the work I was doing. But many also called me a liar, demanded photos or videos as evidence, and accused me of fear-mongering. I did gain widespread support from my colleagues for what I’d written. Many thanked me for giving voice to their experience, one for which they’d been unable to find the words. That was enough for me.
In many ways, COVID and the division it’s brought has stolen the joy from practicing medicine. Being a voice for the frontline is my way of reclaiming a piece of that joy.
2 thoughts on “Voice from the Frontline”
I find it to be appalling that the folks who are the least vaccinated group in the country (white, evangelical Protestants) are the same ones who quote scripture that says, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself”. My thought? They can’t have it both ways.
I have sadly come to the conclusion that ours is a society hijacked by a subgroup that truly does not care about the well-being of their neighbors. The chronic mass shootings and loss of life, especially of our nation’s children, over and over, is met with such indifference by these folks, and now we see their behavior around vaccine and masking. It does not appear that any amount of lived reality will change the bizarre and delusional perceived reality that these people have wholeheartedly embraced.
I have found myself wishing, in a spirit of revenge, that I, too, could invoke one of their repellent “conscience clauses” at times, and stop offering care to those who care little for the public good. It’s against MY personally held values and beliefs that they refuse to mask, refuse to accept a vaccine when it can help themselves and others, refuse to socially distance, and refuse to stay home. But my ethics demand of me that I care, fully, and compassionately, for each patient that enters my exam rooms.
Truly bizarre ideas of “freedom” have become more and more perverted in their minds. I don’t see an end to it. I appreciate you speaking up/out on the issue. It’s all we can do.