Someone Made My Father Sick by Jeff Jarvis
My 95-year-old, fully vaccinated, deaf, dear father is in the hospital with breakthrough COVID. Someone in Florida gave it to him. That someone — someone who works in a community serving the elderly and vulnerable — should have been vaccinated but was not. I am enraged at that someone, whoever it is.
My father has been isolated since the earliest days of the pandemic. He was obsessively careful. He did not go out at all. I ordered everything he needed with Instacart and Amazon, which is also how we knew he was fixing his breakfast and lunch. For most of the shutdown, dinner was delivered to his apartment. Then, a few weeks ago, the senior complex where he lives reopened its dining room. I was not terribly worried as I knew that 97 percent of the residents were vaccinated. What I did not know was that only 50% of staff was vaccinated.
My sister and I had become concerned about our father; versus a week before, he suddenly didn’t seem right. So we came to Florida on Tuesday. We found him exhausted in bed. He said he had no energy. He was short of breath. We called the EMTs, who found his pulse irregular and his oxygen low. Even so, we didn’t jump to assume COVID; worse, we feared some sudden decline with age. The EMTs took him to the hospital, and we followed. After a short time, the ER doctor came and told us we had to leave immediately.
My father is almost entirely deaf now. He had only one hearing aid in, and it was not working. Shouting accomplished only so much. So I asked for some paper and used a marker to write in large, blue letters: “YOU HAVE COVID.” He said: “How the hell?”
Someone gave COVID to him, someone who could and should have been vaccinated.
That was the last we have seen our father. He is now in the hospital’s COVID ward. We can’t visit him. Because he is deaf, we cannot talk to him; the phone is impossible (we got him a landline phone that transcribes conversation into text, but that is at home). I think now of all those scenes of people before the vaccine who were dying alone and isolated, and my heart breaks again for them, and now for him.
It is hard to get updates about our father. The nurses are busy; they have to dress and undress in protective clothing each time they enter and leave a COVID room … which seems almost absurd as I write this in a state that is a COVID ward, where its nihilistic leader dismisses — no, fights against — masks, vaccinations, science, and sense. My Pa is on oxygen and the drugs they have — steroids, Remdesivir, anticoagulants — but they still have next too none to treat COVID. He is doing well, they tell me. They say he is smiling. I’m mostly concerned about his atrial fibrillation. (I know it is not a fatal condition, as I got afib after 9/11 — but that means I also know just how much it can drain one’s energy.) I can’t get my father’s cardiologist to give me the courtesy of answering my call to discuss his condition. I am dependent on the advice of the experts I follow online; I am grateful for their generosity and advice. But I don’t know enough about what is happening right now in my father’s hospital room. Since his oxygen is stabilizing, he will probably be sent soon to whatever COVID rehab bed they can locate, then back to his continuing care facility, then home.
My sister and I are leaving Florida today because there is nothing we can do here and, frankly, because we are at risk in this place. One or both of us will return when he is back home and we can see him and hug him and help him. Since he cannot hear his caregivers in the hospital, I have been delivering letters to him, printed out in 36-point type to tell him what is happening to him, to tell him we are watching from afar, to tell him we love him, though that he knows. Somehow, I will figure out how to get these notes to him until we can see him.
Yesterday, we spoke with someone at his complex about his future care. We expressed utter dismay that half the staff there could be unvaccinated. How could anyone be so irresponsible when they are caring for old people? The people we were speaking with agreed. But they said that if they required the vaccine, in a tight labor market they’d end up short-staffed.
Excuses. Everybody is making excuses when they should be showing responsibility and leadership. We should be requiring vaccinations for the good of all. We should be shunning the people who refuse vaccinations. This is now their pandemic, the pandemic of the unvaccinated. They are ignorant, selfish, irresponsible, cynical, dangerous, deadly.
They gave our dear father COVID. Damn them.