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Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

Opinion | I’m an E.R. doc. Get your shots to finally end this pandemic

I’m a 28-year-old emergency medicine resident with Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids. I have fought this virus on the front lines, not only as a healthcare worker, but as a patient. I’m here to tell you that nobody is immune to COVID-19 – but there is light at the end of this tunnel.

David Burkard
David Burkard is an emergency medicine resident at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids. (Courtesy photo)

In the early months of the pandemic, I cared for a wide range of patients with varying reactions to the virus. Some experienced a cough and body aches, others struggled to breathe as they attempted to speak a single word or two. I saw patients take their final breath surrounded only by their care team. Others celebrated small improvements with their loved ones through the screen of an iPad.

In November, I woke up one morning with a cough, body aches and a fever. Shortly after, I tested positive for COVID-19. Being a young ER doc, I thought – I’ll get through this, I’ve seen worse – and the first week wasn’t so bad. I’m a healthy, active person with no previous history of health problems. But on the eighth day, I struggled to breathe while walking across my one-bedroom apartment.

I drove myself to the hospital; the same hospital where I spent countless hours caring for other COVID-19 patients. I spent three days receiving steroids, antiviral medications, convalescent plasma and supplemental oxygen. For the first time, I felt exactly what my patients did. I was alone, struggling to breathe, sitting in my hospital room waiting and hoping I was going to start feeling better.


Since November, I’ve been fortunate enough to make a full recovery, get vaccinated and get back to work. Now, it’s National Hospital Week, and the theme is “inspiring hope through healing.” Yes, I share my story as a cautionary tale, but also to send the message that there is hope.

This pandemic is not over, but we are much closer to a new normal. The vaccines are working. They are safe and effective. Our hospital is full, but our COVID-19 numbers are trending downward and the positivity rate on COVID-19 tests is dropping. The vast majority of hospitalized patients with the virus have not been vaccinated.

I do not take my recovery from COVID-19 lightly, especially knowing more than 18,000 Michiganders were not as fortunate. I’m grateful to my care team, my fellow front liners and the leadership at Spectrum Health. I’m grateful to the unsung heroes in our cafeteria, janitorial staff, unit secretaries, social workers, lab techs, therapists, radiology support staff and others. I’m grateful to my patients and their families, and the community for rallying behind us.

But mostly, today, I’m grateful to all those who have been vigilant with following the public safety protocol and those who have been, or plan to be, vaccinated. You are making a difference and bringing us closer to brighter days – one shot at a time.

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission. If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact Ron French. Click here for details and submission guidelines.

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