Put aside for a minute your political leanings, religious beliefs and personal viewpoints about vaccinations and COVID-19. Here is my recent experience dealing with the pandemic and its effects on the people around me. This is what I observed.

My mother, aged 93, passed away from pneumonia a few weeks ago. Within the last three weeks of her life, she was tested six times for COVID. She had two PCR tests at her rehab facility, two rapid tests at her assisted living facility and two PCR tests at the hospital. The two PCR tests at the hospital and the two rapid tests at the assisted living facility were in the last week of her life.

All of the tests came back negative. She was vaccinated with two shots and also had received the booster shot. Since she tested negative multiple times for COVID, my sister and I were allowed to be with our mother in the last few days of her life at the hospital.

Here is what I observed at the hospital for a week: The ER waiting room, the ER and the ICU were full, predominantly with COVID patients. Doctors, nurses and support staff were dealing the best they could with the number of patients that they had. My sister and I were the only visitors in that ward of the ICU because all of the other patients had COVID and were isolated. It was eerily quiet in the ICU. All the other patients were on ventilators, except for our mom.

All of the nurses we spoke with said the same thing. They could manage to deal with the number of patients and with the COVID-related health challenges of their patients. What was difficult for them to handle was having to stand in for the family when a patient dies. That was the hardest part for them.

We watched as doctors and nurses put on protective clothing and gear to enter a COVID patient’s room. Otherwise, each patient was isolated and alone in their room. For each patient on a ventilator, the IV drips often had 10 or more medicines and fluids going into their IVs. 

On the last day of our mother’s life, even though she was dying and close to passing away, the nurse told us that our mom was going to be transferred to the regular floor, as they needed her bed in the ICU. Those are the facts. 

Here is my opinion about those facts: How anyone can put their political leanings, religious beliefs or personal viewpoints above the well-being of a loved one, a family member, friend, colleague, a town, city, state, nation or the world is beyond me. Families and loved ones are being torn apart in so many ways. People are suffering and dying. Our health care professionals have passed their tipping point a long time ago. They are doing the best they can but are beyond exhausted. So many people are suffering and it’s not getting better yet.

In my opinion, there are just enough people in the US, who, for whatever reason, are unvaccinated so that our society can’t achieve herd immunity as a whole. Thus, the virus has ample opportunity to mutate and get better. I’ve heard the myriad of reasons for not getting vaccinated, but the fact is the virus is winning and the pandemic continues.

In the battle against COVID, it truly is survival of the fittest. If we want to get the virus and the pandemic under better control and bring this pandemic to an end, we’ve got to unite as a society and as a nation to do so. Otherwise, I see more deaths and suffering and our quality of life continue to degrade. 

My sister and I consider it a blessing that we were able to be with our mother when she passed. We were able to be with her, say goodbye and hold her hand. I can’t imagine the pain a family must feel when their loved one passes away from COVID, has a family member who suffers from the long term effects of COVID or can’t be with that loved one. We need to get this figured out for our children, grandchildren and generations to come, if we are to survive as a species and have a decent quality of life. 

Chappell is a resident of Evergreen.