Loss of a relative galvanizes need for action.
COVID-19 hit home for me some time ago, but never as hard as it did on Friday the 13th.
With 209 people battling COVID-19 and 574 other patients with serious-to-severe medical conditions in the hospital that day, the entire team at Sarasota Memorial was stretched beyond thin. Staff, space and supplies were reaching a tipping point.
As I made rounds and checked in with our COVID-19 unit leaders that busy August morning, I felt a familiar sense of awe for the doctors, nurses, therapists and care team improvising and innovating to care for the daily influx of patients infected with this dread disease.
But two unfamiliar emotions also churned inside me: Fear – for my 81-year-old father-in-law Rodney struggling to breathe in one of our COVID-19 overflow units – and disbelief, that protestors demonstrating against our COVID-19 policies and protocols would gather outside the hospital that day.
Sarasota Memorial Hospital is a place of hope and healing, and the protesters disrespected 7,400 healthcare heroes who have been entrenched in this life-and-death battle for 18 months. Despite being personally impacted by the pandemic, our team soldiers on, supporting one another as they tend to each of our patients with diligence and dedication.
They are emotionally and physically drained, yet give their all every day, 24 hours a day, to save lives and comfort those in crisis. They deserve our unwavering gratitude and support, and they certainly have mine.
I know they did all they could to save Rodney, but on Monday, Aug. 16, after a valiant two-week battle, he succumbed to the virus. On Aug. 21, we held a graveside service with military rites and said our final goodbyes to Monica’s beloved father, our two daughters’ loving grandfather and the man I was fortunate to call Dad.
A kind-hearted person who always helped others, Rodney will remain an unforgettable influence in our lives and his wide circle of family and friends. He trusted the science and knew his serious, underlying respiratory condition made him more vulnerable than most. He was among the first wave of seniors in our community to be fully vaccinated, and planned to get his third-dose booster as soon as it was available to him.
In honor of Rodney, our family begs you to heed the advice of public health and infectious disease experts: Wear a mask, get vaccinated and help stop the surge in hospitalizations and heartbreaking deaths from COVID-19.
David Verinder is president & CEO of Sarasota Memorial Health Care System
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