An ER nurse's message of compassion for the unvaccinated

Audrey Wendt frequently reads the local obituaries. She scans the page looking for a name she recognizes, bracing herself for an emotional blow if she finds one. Learning that a patient has died is a reality of Wendt's job as an emergency room nurse in Grand Rapids, Michigan. But since the start of the pandemic, and particularly in the last few weeks as Covid-19 cases have spiked in her state, it is a reality that has become far too commonplace. Michigan's 56% vaccination rate has not been sufficient to curb the spread of disease, resulting in the state setting a record for hospitalizations last week.
Wendt is starkly aware that her interactions with her patients might be some of the last human contact they'll ever have. And many of these patients, she says, are unvaccinated. Some days, there have been 40 odd patients packed into Wendt's waiting room, some of whom have waited up to 12 hours for a bed. In late November, the federal government sent additional medical personnel to assist in providing care, and, still, hospital resources can't keep up with the influx of patients. But even when they can secure a hospital bed, it is just as hard for Wendt to watch them fight to stay alive. "There's a period of time when patients often get really restless. It's horrible to see," she says. "The body knows something is very wrong. It's trying to compensate, but it just can't."
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