By David Call
Former Manti Resident
Living in Wisconsin
I wish to urge Sanpete citizens in the strongest terms to get vaccinated for COVID-19. The scientific studies are conclusive that the vaccine is safe and effective at preventing disease.
My situation gives me a unique perspective on this pandemic. Seventeen years ago, our family left our beloved Manti for me to pursue my career as a pharmacist.
My entire life up to that point had been spent working with my family at the Messenger. In 2004, the pre-pharmacy program at Snow College gave me an opportunity to switch from subscriptions to prescriptions. I now work as a clinical pharmacist at a small hospital in north-east Wisconsin.
We have been overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases. Our 52-bed facility has been operating at nearly 150 percent capacity since summer, with no apparent relief in sight. We have been forced to use surgery recovery beds, labor/delivery beds and even Emergency Department beds to accommodate the surge in patients. We don’t turn away patients, but the situation places an enormous strain on our limited resources.
The surge has forced us to get creative with our treatment modalities. We have learned that, should the need arise, it is possible to manage two intubated patients using the same ventilator. This is far from practical, but the alternative is to allow one patient to suffocate to death from extensive viral pneumonia.
COVID patients compose 20 to 30 percent of our census. These patients spend an average of five days in a hospital bed. Mild cases are discharged in a couple of days while others can spend more than a month in the ICU before ultimately dying despite our best efforts.
While inpatient therapies can reduce the severity and duration of disease, survival is not guaranteed. Like a car mechanic trying to repair an engine, small problems can be fixed and get drivers back on the road, but when the cylinders become damaged, the engine is beyond repair.
High census numbers also cause ripple effects, further straining an already overtaxed system. Local rehab facilities are filled to capacity. Nursing homes may deny COVID-positive patients from entering to protect current facility residents.
Meanwhile, patients requiring rehab services cannot be discharged from the hospital. They linger for days or weeks, tying up hospital beds that are sorely needed for other patients.
Because we can’t get patients out, the bodies bottleneck out the Emergency Department (ED) doors. It is not uncommon to have patients lying in gurneys in the ED hallways because all the beds are occupied.
But it’s not just out hospital that’s affected. All the larger area hospitals are facing the same issues. Patients having a heart attack or stroke cannot be transferred to tertiary facilities, severely limiting their access to life-saving treatments.
The medical system can only do so much.
The tragedy is that all of this can be avoided if people would just get vaccinated. While getting the shot is not a sure guarantee that a person will not contract COVID-19 (we see a few breakthrough cases every week), I have never seen a vaccinated patient die. Let that sink in…
Deer hunting season is here. Can you wander around the hills without wearing blaze orange? Sure. But hunters have a far greater chance of being shot and/or killed by going without. Donning a fluorescent vest or cap doesn’t eliminate mortality rates completely, but it vastly decreases the risks.
Even if a hunter survives, a gunshot would can create significant injuries resulting in long-term disabilities. The same can be said for contracting COVID while unvaccinated. Even if a patient survives, COVID can have lasting consequences. Getting the shot greatly reduces the chances of getting or spreading the virus and practically eliminates the chance of dying.
So I watch dumbfounded as a continuous flow of unvaccinated COVID patients stream into the hospital, clogging the system, limiting our ability to treat non-COVID patients and knowing that some will never leave.
Our latest fatality was a 43-year old man. He spent 40 days in the hospital, 37 of which were in the ICU on a ventilator. His internal systems eventually shut down. He died within 10 minutes of stopping life support. He may have left behind a wife and children, now saddled with a six- to seven-digit medical bill and now without the benefit of his income.
The COVID vaccine has been readily available for a year. A year, people! This pandemic has raged through our communities leaving suffering, disability and death in its wake. We must do whatever it takes to put an end to COVID-19. If you haven’t been vaccinated, please, please do so if at all possible.
David Call is a graduate of Manti High School and Snow College. He was associate editor of the Messenger-Enterprise and Sanpete Messenger from 200 to 2004. He received his pharmacy doctorate degree from the University of Montana in 2008. He and his wife, Beverly, who is also a Manti High graduate live in Marinnet, Wisconsin.