SACRAMENTO (KPIX 5) — Health care workers have had their strength, stamina and spirits put to the test during the pandemic. But one Bay Area physician currently working an ER near Sacramento told KPIX 5 about a critically-ill patient who recently left him questioning his own compassion.
Dr. Taylor Nichols says he has cared for patients with offensive tattoos in the past.
“Some of my favorite conversations with patients have been just about that — talking to them about their tattoos,” said Dr. Nichols.
But a patient the doctor encountered two weeks ago tested his commitment to the Hippocratic Oath.
On a Twitter thread posted November 30th, Dr. Nichols described the encounter. The older man arrived at the emergency room by ambulance and was struggling to breathe. He looked at Nichols and said, “Don’t let me die, Doc.”
As his shirt came off and he was put on a ventilator, the patient’s lightning bolt “SS” and swastika tattoos were on prominent display.
He came in by ambulance short of breath. Already on CPAP by EMS. Still, he was clearly working hard to breathe. He looked sick. Uncomfortable. Scared.
As we got him over to the gurney and his shirt off to switch a a hospital gown, we all noticed the number of Nazi tattoos. 1/
— Taylor Nichols, MD (@tnicholsmd) November 30, 2020
“It’s a symbol of hate. It challenged me a bit,” said Nichols.
On Twitter, Dr. Nichols asked what would his patient think about a Jewish doctor taking care of him; and what would happen if the roles were reversed?
Nichols said the pandemic has weighed heavily on him for months, with no end in sight as a new surge pushes doctors to their limits.
“Part of that is the stress that we’re under right now, and I know other members of my team feel similarly,” said Nichols.
The patient’s care team also included a Black nurse and an Asian respiratory therapist.
Every coronavirus patient is at risk, but for the first time in his career, Nichols questioned whether he wanted to keep that promise.
“It challenged me in a way that I didn’t really expect,” he said.
Despite a moment of hesitation, Dr. Nichols promised he’d do his best.
“With this patient, I really didn’t have an opportunity to talk to him,” explained Nichols. “I was only left with the impact that that symbol had on me.”
Tens of thousands of Twitter users have shared the story since it was first posted