Doctor who has lost over 100 patients to covid says some deny virus from their death beds: 'I don't believe you'
Matthew Trunsky is used to people being mad at him.
As a pulmonologist and director of the palliative care unit at a Beaumont Health hospital in southeast Michigan, Trunsky sees some of the facility's sickest patients and is often the bearer of bad news.
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He gets it. Nobody is ready to hear that their loved one is dying.
But when a respected nurse in the intensive care unit told him during a recent shift that the wife of an unvaccinated Covid patient berated her when she informed the woman about the deteriorating condition of her husband, Trunsky, who had more than 100 patients with the coronavirus has lost, has reached its limit.
When he got home that evening, he made himself a sandwich and opened up Facebook.
Still dressed in his black smock, he began to vent. He wrote about a seriously ill patient who denied his diagnosis of Covid-19. Another threatened to call his lawyer if he was not given ivermectin, an anti-parasite drug not approved for the treatment of Covid. A third, Trunsky wrote, told the doctor they would rather die than take any of the vaccines.
One asked for another doctor, "I don't believe you," he told the doctor.
The doctor added, "Of course the answer was to have been vaccinated - but they weren't and now they are angry at the medical community for their failure."
Trunsky's post describing his interactions with eight Covid patients and their loved ones highlights the resistance and abuse some US health care workers face while caring for patients who have postponed or refused vaccination to have. Trunsky estimates that nine out of ten Covid patients he treats are unvaccinated.
His contribution - an appeal to people to get vaccinated - also highlights the physical and emotional toll the pandemic has caused on health care workers who have been on the front lines for over a year and a half. According to a survey by the Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation, around 3 in 10 have considered leaving the profession, and around 6 in 10 say the stress from the pandemic has harmed their mental health.
Some doctors refuse to treat unvaccinated patients. Last month, an Alabama doctor posed next to a sign saying he would not treat unvaccinated patients as of October 1. Earlier this month, a Florida doctor sent her patients a letter informing them that she would not personally treat unvaccinated patients after September 15.
Trunsky, 55, has compassion for other burned-out medical professionals.
"We're physically tired overall, including myself, and we're emotionally exhausted ... I don't think a week goes by without seeing someone die," he told the Post.
When the pandemic started, Trunsky spent about four hours a day calling patients' families to inform them of the status of their loved ones. Some of those conversations still touch him, like the time he called a woman to share the news of her father's death. "I'm sorry I can't take your call right now," he remembered how she told him. "We're burying my mother."
Another time when she called a woman to report that her brother was dying, the woman replied - before Trunsky said anything - with: "Look, my mother died, my father died, my brother died and I don't want bad news. "
But what makes him sadder, he told the Post, "are the ones I don't remember." He lost too many patients to recall them all during the global pandemic.
For most of 2020, Trunsky and his staff saw one surge in coronavirus patients after another. When the Food and Drug Administration approved the first vaccine last December, Trunsky said that morale and hope were restored to his hospital. That didn't take long, though. As vaccination rates stabilized and the highly contagious Delta variant spread, hospital beds filled up again.
Trunsky said patients he sees give various reasons for not taking any of the vaccines. Some, he said, regret the decision - like a nursing mother who said she was concerned about how a vaccine might affect her newborn. Others, Trunsky said, were still convinced they made the right choice - even on their deathbed.
Whatever their reasons, he told the Post, "they're paying the price and they're getting mad at us."
And although he said it was easier to deal with appreciative patients than those who threaten to sue them if he did not give them ivermectin, he remains determined to treat everyone fighting Covid with the same care .
Of those he wrote about in his Facebook post earlier this month after the hard shift, six out of eight have since died, he said.
Two, including the husband of the woman who berated the ICU nurse, remain in critical condition.
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