VUMC receives $10M gift from anonymous donor

Vanderbilt University Medical Center

This post was supposed to be about how I’m getting ready for surgery on Friday (which I mentioned a couple of weeks ago), and so I’ll be away from Pith for a while. I'd been thinking of meaningful things I wanted to say. Not that I’m planning on dying. But, you know, just in case. I don’t want to pass on without telling you one more time that there is so much to love about Nashville, so many interesting nooks and crannies to get into, and so please go poking around and be rewarded. But also, in general, stop being dumbasses who don’t think things through. You know, the usual stuff, but with more poignancy because I would be off doing this scary thing and then healing from it for a while.

But I found out on Friday that I am not having surgery this week. The hospital is too full of COVID patients, and the ORs are being shut down so that personnel can deal with COVID patients instead — patients who are mostly unvaccinated. My surgery will be rescheduled maybe in October, depending on COVID.

Until Friday, I can’t remember the last time I cried so hard that I had a headache after. I have done everything asked of me for the past 18 months. I turned my living room into a home office. I stayed home. I wore masks when I couldn’t stay home. I missed my aunt’s funeral and my grandma’s funeral because I didn’t want to risk traveling from this Petri dish of a state into groups of old people whom I love. I didn’t want to be Typhoid Mary to my whole family. I got the vaccine the week I was eligible for it. I mostly stayed away from friends.

And since January, when I first felt a lump in my neck, I have had CT scans and MRIs and blood drawn and needles in my neck, all alone. I could have used moral support. I have many dear and awesome friends who offered to come be my moral support, but I did everything I could physically do by myself alone because I didn’t want to risk anyone else going in and out of the hospital during these times.

I did my part to get COVID over with as quickly as possible.

And all these people who did not do their part are clogging up the hospitals. I would be disappointed if my surgery were postponed due to an influx of kids too young to be vaccinated or adults who can’t be vaccinated. But I would understand.

This, though? Just selfish assholes who expected to get to be the exception to the rules? Fuck them. I’m so pissed. They’re too sick to do it, but unvaccinated COVID patients should have to be the ones to call people like me and tell us we can’t have the surgeries we were counting on because of them. I cried and cussed when the scheduler called me, but then I apologized, because it’s not her fault. And, my God, can you imagine the trauma of having to call multiple people and hearing them all in despair? But if I had been talking to an unvaccinated person who is in a hospital bed that I need? Well, let me just say that I would have found it cathartic. Perhaps they would have found it informative.

I've been saying for a while now that I’m not sure how we come back from this. How do we live together as a state knowing so many people just do not care about anyone but themselves? How can I be the kind of person I want to be — kind, compassionate, open to others — when I know that so many of those others are hostile to me?

But I’m going to admit, something has broken in me. I was watching a video of Gov. Bill Lee dodging doctors after his press conference and I felt nothing but utter contempt for him. If he were a lifeguard at a pool where half the pool-goers were pooping in the pool, and a good number of the poopers refused to wear bathing suits, would he be insisting it was a parent’s decision if kids needed to wear bathing suits? Would he be telling the people who weren’t pooping in the pool that the most they could hope for from him was encouragement that people get their tetanus and hepatitis vaccines? Would he continue to be lifeguard at the pool when it was so obvious that he was not actually guarding anyone’s life?

Do we really want to come back from this? At this point, refusing to get vaccinated when you can looks, from the outside, like a kind of self-harm that quickly spreads to harming others. Refusing to wear a mask makes you look selfish and myopic. Keeping masks off your kids looks like you’re trying to get your kids and other people's kids sick. In any other case, if there were a person who was harming herself and others — was under a delusion that a piece of safety equipment was somehow violating her freedom, and then was refusing that safety equipment for her children — the most charitable view we could have of that person is that she is suffering from a mental health crisis. Otherwise, it’s just an abuser with a good cover story.

In either case, unless you are a trained professional, the safest thing for you to do is distance yourself from someone like this. And frankly, that’s my plan. The unvaccinated in this state have told me that they will harm others to get their way. I have evidence, based on my own experience, that this is true. I have been harmed now by people refusing to get vaccinated. As Maya Angelou advised, I will now do them the courtesy of believing that they are who they’ve shown themselves to be.

I will be very wary of them for the rest of my days. Maybe they don’t see it as wishing me harm, but they have harmed me, and I would be a fool to give them the benefit of the doubt that they didn’t mean it.

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