It’s a battle for Joe Gammon to speak. Mendacity in his mattress within the intensive care unit at Ascension Saint Thomas Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee, this month, he described himself as “naive.”
“If I might have identified six months in the past that this might be potential, this may have been a no brainer,” mentioned the 45-year-old father of six, who has been in vital situation with COVID-19 for weeks. He paused to make use of a suction tube to dislodge some phlegm from his throat. “However I actually didn’t suppose I used to be at any threat.”
Tennessee hospitals are setting new data every day, caring for extra COVID sufferers than ever, together with 3,846 of the greater than 100,000 People hospitalized with the virus as of Sept. 9. Essentially the most vital sufferers are nearly all unvaccinated, hospital officers say, that means ICUs are crammed with regretful sufferers hoping for a second probability.
In hospitals all through the South in addition to in elements of California and Oregon, greater than 50% of the inpatients are being handled for COVID, an NPR evaluation exhibits.
Gammon is a truck driver from rural Lascassas in Center Tennessee who mentioned he listens to loads of conservative speak radio. The every day diatribes downplaying the pandemic and selling private freedom have been sufficient to dissuade him from vaccination.
Gammon mentioned he’s not an “anti-vaxxer.” And he mentioned he’s a dedicated believer within the COVID vaccine now. He’s additionally grateful he didn’t get anybody else so sick they’re in an ICU like him.
“Earlier than you say no, search a second opinion,” he suggested individuals who suppose the way in which he did earlier than being hospitalized. “Simply to say ‘no’ is irresponsible. As a result of it won’t essentially have an effect on you. What if it affected your partner? Or your little one? You wouldn’t need that. You positive wouldn’t need that in your coronary heart.”
Gammon’s lungs are too broken from COVID for a ventilator. He’s on the last-resort life help ECMO, which stands for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. Not like earlier generations of life help, individuals on ECMO may be absolutely aware, can converse to their family members (and even reporters), and might even transfer round with the assistance of a group of nurses and technicians.
However it’s an intense remedy, with a machine doing the work of each the center and the lungs. Thick tubes run out of a gap in Gammon’s neck, and pump all of his blood by way of the ECMO machine to be oxygenated, then again into his physique by way of different tubes. A masks over his nostril forces air into his lungs as they’re given time to heal.
Even for sufferers who survive ECMO, many face months of rehabilitation and even everlasting incapacity or dependence on oxygen.
This Saint Thomas West ICU is treating COVID sufferers solely, and that knowledge level ought to be fairly convincing to vaccine holdouts, mentioned vital care nurse Angie Gicewicz.
“We don’t have individuals within the hospital struggling horrible reactions to the vaccine,” she famous.
If all of the sufferers on this corridor might speak — and a few can’t as a result of they’re sedated on ventilators — Gicewicz mentioned they’d inform individuals to study from their errors. She recounted the story of an aged girl who was admitted in latest weeks and spent her first days in isolation to regulate an infection.
Gicewicz mentioned she’d wave on the nurses from her sealed room, determined for anybody to speak to. “The primary day I took care of her, she mentioned, ‘I assume I ought to have taken that vaccine.’ I mentioned, ‘Effectively, yeah honey, most likely. However we’re right here the place we at the moment are, and let’s do what we are able to for you.’ ”
That girl, like so many who didn’t take the vaccine, by no means recovered, Gicewicz mentioned. She died at this hospital, which averaged a couple of COVID dying day-after-day through the month of August.
p>This story is a part of a partnership that features Nashville Public Radio, NPR and KHN.
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Kaiser Well being Information is a nationwide well being coverage information service. It’s an editorially unbiased program of the Henry J. Kaiser Household Basis which isn’t affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.