The omicron spike matters

The chart shows new Covid-19 cases in Kent County MI. Meanwhile, for the consideration of those who think those numbers don’t matter, here is my own personal account of what those numbers mean.

A week ago Friday, here in my hometown in VA, I took my sweet 92-year-old mother to the local hospital in her car. She was experiencing excruciating pain in her hands and was no longer ambulatory. We could no longer manage her pain humanely at home, and she was too weak to walk to the car. A couple of strong, skilled, and very kind EMTs from our emergency crew put her in the car.

Why not in their ambulance? They were kind enough to warn us that if they took her in, they could be diverted en route to any emergency room in a three or four county area, but if I drove her ten minutes to her local hospital, where she had served for two decades as a volunteer, we would not be turned away.

When we arrived, we waited for an attendant to come out to the car and help her into a wheelchair. Inside the ER, she was checked in quickly. But then she was parked in that wheelchair for six hours because no bed or gurney was available in the ER. ER staff attended to her and determined in a reasonable length of time that she had to be admitted (very low sodium); but there she sat. She began to become uncomfortable after a couple of hours. Four or five hours in, she was in great pain. After six hours they moved her onto a gurney. Recall that I took her in because her hand pain was unbearable, and uncontrollable at home. Now she had excruciating pain, for hours at a time, over four days, all over her body. It was later determined that the pain was owing to deterioration of her spine with resulting impingement on nerves.

Don’t read over “excruciating pain” too quickly. My sister and my wife and I will never forget those hours.

Elsewhere in the ER, every usual location was filled, and I think up to ten additional patients were parked on gurneys and on chairs in corridors. Some of these people were in tough shape. Several times when I politely, gently asked for a bed, or for some pain medication, a harried nurse would tell me: “We are doing the best we can; there are other patients here who are very sick.”

Once when I was told (again) that there was no bed for my mother, who was moaning (I was going to say “writhing” but that would have been untrue; she didn’t have the strength for writhing) in agony in her wheelchair, the nurse who told me no beds were available was standing about 15 feet from a strapping young lad who was sitting comfortably on a bed, swinging his feet. Once when a nurse got a fentanyl patch for my mother, she stood 15 feet away from her fiddling with a data-entry problem for about 20 minutes before walking over, applying the patch to my mom (it took her ten seconds), and telling me that it would take 30 minutes to have an effect. (It took much longer.). I kept asking myself: if I were to start yelling, making a scene, would I get help for my mother faster, or would I just get thrown out, leaving her to suffer alone? These nurses were not bad nurses. They were overloaded and (in my view) made some bad choices in setting priorities under long-duration high pressure. Who could blame them for that?

Sunday evening, approximately 56 hours after arriving at the hospital, my mother was moved into a room on a floor. The pain was brought under control, but the weakness deepened. She died Thursday evening. We bury her tomorrow.

Everyone dies. How much was my mother’s death accelerated by the consequences of overcrowding in hospitals owing to the failure of deluded, perverse, ignorant, or deprived people to get vaccinated and take other precautions? Days? Months? I don’t know. Or how many hours of severe, unmitigated pain did she suffer because certain other people declined to get a shot or wear a mask? Again, I don’t know.

Covid patients were not the majority of patients in that ER or in that hospital. Far from it. But the number of Covid patients pushed the hospital beyond its capacity.

So when I look at that Kent County graph, I know that that upward climb will inevitably translate into pain, anguish, and death for someone. For numerous someones.

This is the second of three reflections on my mother’s passing:
(1) Grief and gratitude
(2) The omicron spike matters
(3) What to do with suffering

4 thoughts on “The omicron spike matters

  1. I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s a total disgrace, the number of people who can’t get the care they need when they need it, because the hospitals are all overwhelmed with COVID patients. It DIDN’T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY!

    Liked by 1 person

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