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Be safe; be smart

COVID-19, long COVID-19, Delta, and the variants yet to evolve



A dear friend lost his father to COVID prior to the vaccine becoming available. His dad was old and his health was compromised, but he was loved and is missed by his family. My friend's young daughter, who is an anti-vaxxer, recently contracted the disease and has been in and out of the hospital since. She is currently suffering long-term residual neurological and psychological effects. My friend and his wife put their lives on hold to go back to Texas to help care for her. I dropped him a line to check on how things are going and this is what he wrote back:

"My daughter is recovering slowly but surely. She still has a bad case of the so-called brain fog, but we pray that it will improve over time. My younger brother was not so fortunate. He contracted COVID about a week ago and died of COVID pneumonia this past week. He was fully vaccinated so it is a cautionary tale about the seriousness of this disease."

I shared his story with a good friend who is a critical care physician, and this is what she reported from the front lines:

"Please share your friend's story with everyone you know ... especially the unvaccinated. I have admitted so many younger COVID patients in the past month in San Joaquin County where vaccination rates are low due largely to political reasons. It is now way beyond depressing.

"You can die from COVID after vaccination but [it is] very rare and there are usually other health risk factors that the patient did not disclose. People can get mild COVID and still end up with long COVID like [your friend's daughter] is experiencing. No one knows yet if they will ultimately recover or not. There is not yet enough data. Unfortunately, the story you share is typical.

"No one should trust that the person they're standing next to is vaccinated. Also, vaccinated people can still transmit the virus. Unfortunately, many health care providers and first responders are amongst the unvaccinated, still!

"The CDC, with good reason [political], will hesitate to mandate mask wearing, so people need to be smart. I see people all over the place walking around indoors mask-less and totally oblivious. Some of us 'trust no one' and have never stopped masking. We can't afford to totally shut down, but neither can we afford to not mask.

"All those people that survive intubation in the ICU are almost guaranteed to have PTSD to some degree for the rest of their lives. [When patients require intubation] we must medically paralyze them in order to save their lungs and their lives."

When I stopped to think about what my physician friend was telling me from the patient's perspective, I can only imagine how terrifying it must be to be conscious, aware you are on death's bed, with tubes down your throat and other places, needles in your veins, machines beeping around you, all while completely paralyzed. What would be going through your head? To help ease the patient's mental and physical pain doctors must sedate them. This is a fine line, and it seems that it is more experience than science to maintain the "sweet spot." Not enough and they are in painful agony. Too much and they're dead.

"How deeply we can sedate them depends solely on how good the nurses are at picking up on the fact that the sedation is wearing off and the motionless, paralyzed patient is now awake, aware, and terrified and in need of additional sedation," my friend continued. "Some of nurses are not so good at assessing this. Some MDs refuse to sedate their patients enough [fearing lawsuits if the patient dies from an overdose].

"There are things worse than death ... imagine the PTSD you would have to live with for the rest of your life, should you be lucky enough to survive, from having gone through this experience. One of my first patients from when I was a new attending ICU doctor taught me about that—he lived for another five years after intubation with PTSD and ultimately ended up dying of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease."

Even though I am completely vaccinated, I have started wearing my mask again when I am in enclosed places or out in public areas. However, just yesterday I was walking into Costco when I realized I had left my mask back in my car. I did not go back for it. My bad. My friends, family, community, country, and the world deserve better from me. Please forgive me. I promise I will do better.

Be smart and be safe my friends. Δ

Stan Tillman writes from Shell Beach. Write a response for publication and email it to letters@newtimesslo.com.

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