He and his wife had decided not to be vaccinated.
Last year a case like this would have flattened me. I would have struggled with the sadness and how unfair life was. Fought the anguish of his bad luck. This year I struggled to find sympathy.
It was August 2021, not 2020. The vaccine had been widely available for months in the United States, free to anyone who wanted it, even offered in drugstores and supermarkets. Cutting-edge, revolutionary, mind-blowing and life-saving vaccines were available where people shopped, and they still didn’t want them.
Outside the door of my patient’s hospital, I took a deep breath – to calm my anger and frustration – and entered. I had worked in the COVID-19 units for 17 consecutive months, all day, every day. I had treated hundreds of patients. We have all had, without being able to take breaks long enough to help us recover from this never-ending ordeal. Compassion fatigue set in. For those of us who hadn’t left after the most difficult year of our working lives, even hope was lacking now.
Screaming through my N95 mask and the sound of the HEPA filter, I introduced myself. I calmly asked him why he had decided not to get the vaccine.
“Well, I’m not an anti-vaccine or anything. I was just waiting for the FDA to approve the vaccine first. I didn’t want to do anything experimental. I didn’t want to be the government’s guinea pig, and I don’t think it’s safe, ”he said.