Kelli Ward, former state senator and chairwoman of the Arizona Republican Party, is messing with medical professionals in the middle of a global pandemic to get some ink for herself and maybe a fawning tweet from the president. I have personal reasons to have a serious problem with that.
Three years ago nearly to the day, I was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the local hospital here with pneumonia in both lungs and a larger infection running like wildfire through my body. I stopped breathing the first night I was there and was put on a ventilator for the next five days while they wrung the poison out of me like I was a dirty sponge.
I was in the ICU for a total of 11 days, and it was a wretched experience I would not wish upon my worst enemy. The damage my body absorbed remains with me, and to some yet-unknown extent always will. My lungs are lesser things now, scarred and limping through their duties. Staircases are my sworn foe. I will heave for breath if I run 10 steps, see spots and dead relatives if I run 30 steps, and I need another year of healing before I try for 40. I run a bit every day, though, for my little girl, who likes when I pretend to be a bear and chase her. I haven’t caught her yet, but the day is coming.
That experience is my very personal reason for being terrified of COVID-19. COVID at bottom is pneumonia with fangs, and if I catch this thing with my lungs made of delicately spun glass, I’m done for.
That experience is also the reason why nurses, and specifically ICU nurses, are my heart. Nurses are the reason I am still here, mostly intact. It was the nurses who did the dirty work of putting Humpty back together every minute I was there, and I will never forget it.
The nurses who saved my life have been much on my mind as COVID-19 has turned hospitals all across the country into nightmare abattoirs of sorrow and solitary death. The pandemic has done its damage here in this little corner of New Hampshire, but we have been largely spared the harrowing calamity that has enveloped hospitals in New York, Boston and other large cities.
I wonder, today, where my ICU nurses are, what they have seen, and how they are holding up. I pray for them, even as prayer is uncomfortable to me, because they are special and they need all the spiritual support that can be summoned. They are the difference between the Devil and the deep blue sea for tens of thousands, right here and now. They have changed the face of heroism, because heroism — whether voluntary or coerced — is now masked and gowned, if it can find the scant personal protective equipment (PPE) in Trump’s winning America.
This is why, when former Arizona state senator and current chairwoman of the Arizona Republican Party Kelli Ward told people to dress like health care workers when they attend anti-stay-at-home rallies, I wanted to put Public Enemy on a fused loop in my headphones until I got to Arizona to put things straight.
Several days ago, a number of health care professionals in Colorado wore their PPE gear to counterprotest against the strange death-seekers that have cropped up around Donald Trump like a groundburst of deadly nightshade. Those protesters think COVID-19 is a hoax, thanks to Trump, and are demanding that everyone else go back to work so they can get haircuts and sit-down restaurant service again. They don’t care about how such behavior will cause a new spike in infections, because the president has enabled them to believe it is all a bunch of hooey.
So a clutch of Colorado medical professionals geared up in their PPE and stood before these nihilist protesters to show them what the real world looks like now. Kelli Ward didn’t like it, and got to work undermining the very people who may save her life one day, or worse, hold her hand when she dies of COVID-19 hospitalized in quarantine like so many thousands of others have already.
“EVEN IF these ‘spontaneously’ appearing ppl at protests against govt overreach (sporting the same outfits, postures, & facial expressions) ARE involved in healthcare – when they appeared at rallies, they were actors playing parts #Propaganda #FakeOutrage,” tweeted Ward after the Colorado protest.
Not to be outdone even by herself, Ward later wrote, “Planning protest to #ReOpenAmerica? EVERYONE wear scrubs & masks — the media doesn’t care if you are really in healthcare or not — it’s the ‘message’ that matters.”
Most responses to this pestiferous act of medical sabotage leaned toward the idea that Ward was mocking the front-line medical workers who are keeping a lid on this thing with spit and baling wire, but there is a deeper dagger here.
Ward has been a staunch foe of abortion rights throughout her career, when she hasn’t been peddling theories about how John McCain ended his cancer treatments to damage her Senate campaign in 2016. This trick with the medical gear is straight out of the radical anti-choice playbook.
One of the more notorious tactics deployed by the anti-choice movement is to set up sham “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” (CPCs) next to actual clinics that provide women’s reproductive health services. They trick women into coming inside, where everything looks like a doctor’s office should, and then slam them with Christian-bent propaganda to try and fool them out of exercising their rights over their own bodies.
“CPCs regularly attempt to legitimize their tactics by medicalizing their facilities,” explains the National Abortion Federation. “CPCs without medical professionals often use ultrasound machines and dress their staff in hospital scrubs or white coats to cultivate an appearance that they are actual medical providers” (emphasis added).
This is a time of deep and confusing darkness. There will almost certainly be no sudden resolution to this crisis. There is no promise that a vaccine will ever be found, and the hardships we endure are very likely a permanent part of our daily lives in one form or another for the next several years. The wolf is loose. This is the long slog, and there is nothing left to do but accept it as best we can and rewire our lives accordingly.
Caricaturing health care professions at protests designed to lure people quite literally to their deaths is an act of such loathsome profundity under these grim circumstances that it beggars proper description. People like Kelli Ward and Donald Trump are so focused on what passes for winning in their lexicon, i.e. “owning the libs,” that they are apparently ready to feed us into the maw of this beast if it affords them five more minutes of ink in the press.
Medical professionals saved my life three years ago. If I catch this deadly virus, they will be tasked to do it again, because people who have had pneumonia are wide open to getting it again if it decides to tap them on the shoulder, and recovering a second time is twice as hard.
The power people like Ward and Trump bring to the political table is their utter and abject lack of shame. They will say or do anything if it wins them a news cycle. These are the people who have brought this country to its knees. If they have their way, they will put us six feet under and walk away with a bag of money slung over their shoulder.
I stand with the nurses, the doctors, the EMTs and everyone who treated the act of saving my life three years ago as just another day at the office, because that’s what it was for them. These are our extraordinary people, the iron heart of righteous service and selfless dedication. I’ve seen it with my own eyes and am still here to say it because of what I saw. They deserve better than Kelli Ward and Donald Trump.