September 1, 2021, Protest
The crowd below Mia milled about holding signs, chanting slogans, and blocking traffic. The fourty-five-year-old nurse felt her nails dig into her flesh as she stood there staring out the window. She felt emotions tumble through her. What did those people think they were accomplishing? Why were they targeting the hospital? Mia wished they would just go home, she just wanted them to go away.
Mia could hardly believe it when she heard about the planned protest outside Kelowna General Hospital. When she got to work on the cloudy morning of September 1, 2021, she never really expected anyone to show up. They couldn’t think protesting at the hospital was a good idea, could they?
They did. And the number of people milling around on the corner surprised her. The storm clouds in the sky didn’t compare to the storm clouds in her mind.
After twenty years as a nurse, Mia thought she had seen it all. Late-night shifts and long hours never prepared her for what she saw on that dismal day. A day she wished she could forget. The hospital had been getting busier for the last number of years. Even after the expansion, things were difficult. They were short-staffed and overworked.
Then came the pandemic.
At first, it was quiet, almost a respite from the chaos that working as a nurse brought. She knew they would pay a price for all the canceled surgeries and delayed procedures. Last year they waited for the oncoming storm of patients that was predicted. Covid19 was forecast to rage through the Interior Health region and overload the hospital with people infected and dying. It didn’t happen.
The last six weeks saw the surge everyone predicted. A new rush of patients had been infected by the Delta variant of Covid and were in the ICU and in the hallways of emergency. Doctors were now being forced to make a choice. It wasn’t like the people with heart attacks or strokes were lessening. Now they had a whole new challenge in front of them.
And there were people outside protesting…
Protesting what exactly? They said it was their freedom, their rights. Sure, she understood that not everyone wanted to get vaccinated. But did they really think they had some kind of god-given right to eat at a restaurant? What about the rights of the people lying in hospital beds battling this viral disease? Didn’t they have rights too? Even if almost all the covid patients had refused to get the vaccine in the first place.
Mia thought about Bill, one of her patients in ICU. He was taking up a bed that could have been used for someone they were trying to save from a heart attack, someone that had been in a car accident. And he knew it. He didn’t want to be there. Bill admitted to Mia that he had been an unbeliever. Bill thought Covid was a hoax, he thought that it was all about some kind of government control. Bill wasn’t sure if he was going to live, he certainly would never be the same. The Kelowna man saw the folly of his ways, realizing too late that covid was real and had no desire to control anything. Except for his life…
Mia looked down at the protesters chanting, marching. The nurse was tired, she was sore, she felt lost. What kind of people thought that yelling at her would change anything? She had five minutes left in her break. It was going to be a long six hours. The last half of her shift hovered over her as she looked down on the scene below. A burst of emotional pain pierced her heart.
Mia sat down on the edge of the window and cried.