Stop Sneering at Unvaccinated People Getting Sick
My mother, Sally Leitch, worked as an emergency room nurse at the Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center in Mattoon, Illinois, for nearly 35 years. You name it, she saw it. Every single day she went into her job, she saw people at the absolute lowest moment of their lives, people desperate for help, people mourning for their loved ones, people terrified and lonely, people saying goodbye, people without anyone to say goodbye to them. Every day, people begged my mother for assistance, screamed in her face, or both. We are at our worst when we or our loved ones are in the hospital. We are so scared.
My mother dealt with that, every day, with one core fundamental principle in place: Everyone deserves the best care possible. She took care of hardened criminals, convicted sex offenders, drunk drivers who had just killed a child before coming into the ER, and she took care of all of them with the same care and attention as she took care of her priest when he was admitted. That is the job: To care for and tend to the sick. It doesn’t matter who they were, or what they did, before they came into the emergency room. All that matters is that they are there, and that they need you. That’s the job. That’s the oath.
Right now, we have reached the stage of the pandemic in the United States where our hospitals (and, in some cases, morgues) are filling up once again with patients suffering from Covid-19. It is deeply distressing to witness, and a thousandfold worse for the medical professionals who thought they had been through the worst of this and now find themselves in the same war-like conditions they were in last fall and winter. It’s awful. It’s so awful.
The difference between the hospital surge this summer and the ones last fall, though, is that the vast, vast majority of people in the hospital now had the opportunity to receive a vaccine that would keep them safe but chose not to do so — and are now fighting for their lives as a result. This has led to a spate of stories about these patients, lying on what might be their deathbed, lamenting their foolishness. “I messed up: It was my fault,” one indicative patient said. “I could have done research. I could have gotten the vaccine. I could have gotten my kids vaccinated, but…