Daniel Bergman has heard it all, every possible irrational, misinformed, paranoid idea about COVID-19 and the vaccines.
A few examples: Bill Gates created the virus. The vaccine is a female sterilization shot. It will alter your DNA irreparably.
Bergman is a 25-year veteran nurse who works for Classic Air Medical, which airlifts desperately ill patients to the most appropriate hospital in the region. In Southwest Colorado, Classic Air Medical operates a small plane out of Pagosa Springs and a helicopter out of Cortez and serves all of the hospitals in the region.
During normal times, Bergman usually makes one flight each day he works. Since COVID-19 blossomed in the region, he and the paramedic and pilot who make up the Classic Air Medical team have sometimes made three to five trips in one day, often with COVID-19 patients on board. What usually is a five-hour trip now can stretch to as long as 13 hours because of the extra precautions, preparation and in-flight care required for those very sick with the coronavirus.
Some of Bergman’s COVID-19 patients haven’t made it to their destinations.
Bergman and other nurses and health care workers know COVID-19 isn’t a hoax or “just the flu.” They’ve watched helplessly as their patients have suffered immeasurably and sometimes died without seeing their loved ones again.
So Bergman takes it personally when some individual, seeing him after a transfer, swathed in PPEs, exhausted from caring for a patient, tells him, “You’re a hero, man, a real hero.
“But you know that mask you’re wearing doesn’t work, don’t you?”
“For me, that just hurts,” Bergman said.
“I’ve talked to a lot of my nursing friends, and all of us are reaching critical mass with just being tired. We’re exhausted and we are confused and hurting at how people pat us on the back and then rant and rave about how only the weak ‘sheeple’ will get the vaccine, how only the lost and uneducated believe COVID is real.”
Bergman knows firsthand that COVID-19 is real, and was grateful to be among the first health care workers in the state to take the vaccine.
When the pandemic is finally over, the death toll of COVID-19 will include many nurses and other people who work in health-care settings – custodians, medical technologists, respiratory therapists, dietary workers. They will be rightly hailed as heroes, having sacrificed their own lives for others.
And when the pandemic is over, among COVID-19’s losses will be the many surviving nurses and other health care workers who quit their careers altogether – because of the powerful grief of losing patient after patient after patient without respite; because of the physical, emotional and spiritual exhaustion exacted by the virus; and because the gratification they once felt in their work has dissolved amid the losing battle against deadly conspiracy theories, lies and political backlash.
Anyone who still has any doubts about the reality of COVID-19 should seek out someone like Bergman and ask them for a description of what this virus looks like. Ask them what it looks like at the very end of a life. Ask them how they feel at the end of a COVID-19 workweek.
Only two words can be appropriate at the end of such testimony, and neither “sheeple” nor “hoax” is one of them.
The right words?
This editorial was republished on Dec. 29 to report that Daniel Bergman works for Classic Air Medical.