Loren B. Hamel, MD - President, Spectrum Health Lakeland |
Sep 7, 2021
I watched out my 5th floor office window as a helicopter rose from the far side of our Pavilion. Onboard was a patient fighting COVID-19 and fighting for their life. The patient was no longer able to absorb or distribute oxygen to the brain or to other vital organs. The additional treatment desperately needed was extracorporeal membrane oxygenation or ECMO. It involves cycling a patient’s blood through an external machine in an attempt to improve oxygenation, buy time, and hopefully save their young life.
That treatment is complicated, expensive, and in increasingly short supply across the nation. We are running low in Michigan. Southern states, where the current surge started earlier, are looking for beds up north. Mostly they are not finding them.
What makes this even more tragic is the patient was previously healthy and young. They had decided to take a chance with the disease rather than with the vaccine. They are certainly not the youngest, nor the first who made that choice and ultimately required ventilator treatment in our ICU.
Here in our community, and in Grand Rapids, and across the country, we are seeing, every day, death and disability from the delta strain now fueling this devastating pandemic. And it is occurring in younger patients, the vast majority of whom have not yet been vaccinated.
Across the 16 Michigan counties that Spectrum Health serves we have given more than half a million vaccine doses. As far as we know, no one has died from their dose. A few dozen got sick enough that they required hospital treatment. If that same group of individuals got infected with the COVID-19 disease, without the added protection of the vaccine, we would conservatively expect to lose 4,000 lives.
I have listened to enough of our team to know that some will say: “I don’t believe you” or “Even if you’re right, I don’t think I’m at risk” or “I don’t trust the vaccine, or believe the data.”
I get it. I really do. I have read countless studies and listened to countless arguments from all sides. This is complicated, confusing, controversial, and understandably polarizing. I also get that many of us are exhausted and discouraged. We are entering a fourth surge. New variants are on the horizon. And it is sometimes hard to see any light at the end of this long dark tunnel.
But at the same time--you inspire me every day. I hear from our friends and neighbors about the superb care you provide across Spectrum Health Lakeland. They talk about the skill and professionalism. They talk about the love and respect. They are so grateful for each one of you.
It breaks my heart to know that we may lose some Lakeland family members over the vaccine requirement. Before you make any final decisions please review the number of informational articles, videos, and posts on Insite about COVID-19 and the vaccine. The vaccine requirement at Spectrum Health is different than many others across the country in that it waited until full FDA approval before implementing. We also understand that team members with religious beliefs and certain medical considerations may desire to apply for an exemption. We have a dedicated process for all team members who wish to apply for an exemption.
For my wife, my immediate family and me, I know the risk of vaccination. I also know the disease’s risks. I know that in this country millions have gotten very sick, hundreds of thousands have died, and many more have suffered disabilities. I’m not willing to give COVID-19 a shot at me, or those around me that I love, without a fight, and without a vaccine.
May God bless you with courage, compassion, and good health during this challenging time.
If you would like to read more of Message from the President, click here