A Message from Dr. Jennifer Barbieri, Pulmonary & Critical Care Physician

I realize many don’t want to hear my words. In regard to the pandemic in general and vaccines specifically, opinions have been formed and outlooks set. But I still have hope, and I will continue to use my voice to paint an accurate picture of the reality we are facing inside the hospital walls. Those of you who have decided to forego the COVID-19 vaccination are gambling with your lives. COVID-19 has not just gone away. It is here and, with the Delta variant, it is getting harder, folks.  

There are very few days when I don’t wonder, “what is around the next corner?” The days that I don’t spend time contemplating this question or don my full-face mask respirator are cherished.  When I’m at the hospital, there have been very few days since March 2020 that I haven’t seen a single COVID patient. I am incredibly discouraged by our national vaccination rates, but I am so encouraged by the effectiveness of these vaccines.  I have hope that fewer folks will die from this terrible virus thanks to our vaccines. But I worry greatly about the unvaccinated.

Many of you have heard stories of what it has been like on the front line. How difficult it is to watch our older patients have their last conversation with loved ones by FaceTime or phone just before intubation and being put on life support.  Sadly, most health care workers know what happens after that. Most patients with COVID on life support don’t survive. The ones that do are often plagued by long-term, permanently debilitating complications from COVID, and the effects of the virus have wreaked havoc on their bodies.  

The Delta variant is more transmissible, and it’s impacting younger people regardless of how healthy they are. I want you to picture this. Same scenario. Same conversation. This time, the patient is in their 40s, or even 30s. Faced with the same life and death decisions as the older patients. And they’re unvaccinated. This is what my colleagues in other states and hospitals are seeing in their ICUs, and I have seen a glimpse of it in our ICUs. If you think the conversations were challenging to have with a 70- or 80-year-old patient who knows they have lived a blessed and fulfilled life, imagine the anguish when the conversation involves a patient and their young children. Hearing the concern as to whether or not they will ever see their kids grow to adulthood is so hard. Hearing that same patient tell you that they wish they had gotten the vaccine and knowing that they could’ve is gut-wrenching.

Transparently, I don’t understand. There is a solution and possibly even a cure.  There is a way out of this. It is time to stop waiting for more data. We have the data, and the vaccine is working. If you or your loved ones have made the choice to skip this vaccination, I hope you can open your mind and heart to reconsider.  Take off your glasses that force you to see this as a red or blue issue or as a violation of personal liberty.  Yes, we have choices. But the wrong choice in this situation comes at a great price and even higher regret. I don’t want you or someone you love to share those regrets. 

I am called to the profession of medicine. However, I am frustrated by the politics of this pandemic. I don’t see red or blue. I see people. I see my neighbors, patients, church members, strangers, friends, and colleagues all trying to navigate these challenges.  

Please, I beg you, get the vaccine. 

 

As seen in the Rome News-Tribune