Frontline nurse talks virus, vaccines and COVID carelessness

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Online chatter in 2021 is deafening on a good day and maddening on a bad one. Make it a hot-button topic like COVID-19, and it can be impossible to separate fact from misinformation. Pro-tip from a local LGBTQ nurse: When in doubt, consult a professional.

Dorian Kerschner works directly with COVID patients as a Critical Care Registered Nurse in the Acute Respiratory ICU at Emory University Hospital. Since the beginning of the pandemic, he encounters “plenty” of people misinformed about the virus, he said.

“I’ve found myself at odds with a number of people who are misinformed and still encouraging others to go out without masks and disregard the most basic of guidelines,” Kerschner told Project Q.

Kerschner knows that coronavirus is real and it is ugly. But some people still doubt or dismiss the severity of the virus, he said.

“I would educate them on the how the virus isn’t just a respiratory issue,” the CCRN said. “It affects the lungs, heart, kidneys and blood as well. And obviously, if they ‘only had a mild case’ that doesn’t mean that it will not be terminal for someone else. I’ve seen it firsthand.”

The same denial and half-truths about the virus also crop up against the vaccines intended to quell its tide. Anyone afraid to take a vaccine when the opportunity arises can consider his professional perspective.

“The alternative is far worse,” Kerschner said. “I have been more than forward about the things I’ve seen since the pandemic started with respect to the HIPAA. I’ve had patients as young as their 20s pass away. I’m 30 years old. If that doesn’t remind you of your own mortality, I don’t know what will.”

Side effects of carelessness

As a frontline worker, Kerschner got his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine in December and his second right after the New Year. He experienced soreness at the injection site, but no other discernible side effects. Some of his co-workers reported a general tiredness after their second dose.

Even if the side effects were worse, though, the shots would be worth it, Kerschner said.

“It is my professional opinion that this is the only way we will be able to return to any sense of normal,” he said. “There are far too many people still whose careless choices are directly contributing to the perpetuation of the pandemic, so vaccination will be the only way to snuff out the threat of the virus at this point.”

We’re looking at you, gays.

“It’s been very difficult to see so many people, especially in the gay community, be careless and apathetic during this time,” Kerschner said. “I never thought I would have to explain to anyone in the community how a virus can devastate our lives or those of the ones we love.”

It may sound harsh, but the implications are stark. So are the disease’s effects, not just on individual LGBTQ people but the whole community, he continued.

“Our gay-owned businesses are also suffering and even closing down for good after being open for decades,” he said. “It’s tragic, but it’s directly a result of those not being compliant with CDC guidelines and the businesses not holding their patrons accountable for complying with them as well.”

Coming together as a community can still help if more people agree to show each other basic respect, Kerschner said. That applies to talk about the virus and vaccines, as well as adhering to safety protocols.

“Our community has enough divisiveness already, but now more than ever, I see those bold lines separating us all,” Kerschner said. “We all need to hold ourselves and each other accountable for our actions as well as stop the spreading of misinformation or downplaying the pandemic.”

“That’s entirely more dangerous than just refusing to wear a mask,” he added. “This has always been bigger than any one person. We all need to work together or we’re all at risk of losing what we know and love.”

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