My friend Lin's dad died of a heart attack yesterday afternoon.
His name was James A. Palladino. He was 59 years old. A father to 4 daughters. Grandfather. Small business owner.
Just absolutely fucking heartbreaking. And an awful coincidence given my post about my father only yesterday.
He had no previous history of heart disease, nor family history of heart disease, or any other existing medical issues. He was a loving and simple man with a wife and family that adored him.
He did not deserve his fate.
Lin was at home when he first started complaining of nausea and then started throwing up. While she was trying to go and get something, she heard him say he was going to faint.
She then heard a thump.
Her dad laid there, facedown, unresponsive. She yelled to her mom to call 911, while she ran next door to her neighbor's house, banging on the door till he opened it. Her neighbor, a volunteer firefighter, immediately ran to her home to help. They had to turn him over and her neighbor started performing CPR on him, including giving him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, his safety be damned.
But it took EMS almost 20 minutes to get to her house. Throughout NYC and Long Island, they have been inundated with calls during the pandemic, including numerous cardiac arrest calls in the field where the increase is attributed to COVID-19. So there is a limitation on resources.
And on March 29th, this new reality led the Nassau County Regional Emergency Medical Advisory Committee on Long Island to bluntly make the following statement:
“There is no medical benefit to transporting patients in cardiac arrest with CPR in progress.”
And they went on to justify the new protocol saying statistically resuscitation rates increase when patients are not moved during CPR.
As a result, many of these people have had their last ditch efforts to save their lives taken away.
When they finally arrived, the cops and EMS kept asking if her dad was COVID-19+. Lin was in shock. She and her mom kept saying no, and her mom specifically told the 911 operator he was not. But the operator still told them he was likely COVID-19+. And as a result, they made their way to her dad, but seemingly in no rush. Lin was infuriated, screaming he did not have COVID-19 and pleading for them to grab the defibrillator pads.
When they finally listened and heard he had not been symptomatic, they realized their error and finally began resuscitation efforts. But in a cardiac arrest, every minute counts.
And the fear of COVID-19 took away her dad's last precious minutes.
Though EMS was able to get a weak pulse after finally taking over the resuscitation efforts, the results at that point were likely catastrophic.
They rushed him to the hospital, but Lin was not allowed to be by his side. And the only reason her mom could go was because she worked at the same hospital.
And so Lin's last image of her father was seeing him lying on the ground, purple and unresponsive, being taken away in an ambulance.
These are the times of COVID-19.
She called me, eerily calm. She told me what had happened, but then proceeded to ask me if I had seen pics of her new puppy. It took me aback for a moment, but then I said to her if you are using that as a distraction and a way to cope, that's okay. And she admitted that's exactly what she was doing.
And I completely get it.
The night before I withdrew care from my dad on December 20th, 2013 (my mom asked me to do so because she was too emotional to do so herself), he coded while I sat in a chair next to his bed. And while the ICU team frantically resuscitated him, I sat calmly and continued to play Candy Crush on my phone.
Yes, Candy Crush.
I thought about it a few days after Daddy had passed, and I thought about how fucked my response was at that time.
But when someone that important to you is on the verge of death, parts of your brain just shutdown to protect your psyche from the shock. Hence Lin's response.
Seeking reassurance, all she could ask me was, "do you think my dad will be okay?"
And I sat in silence for a moment, and I told her I did not know, but he is in a bad situation. So just pray.
Her sister called while we were talking so she hung up. And 3 minutes later, at 1:40pm, she texted me he had passed away, followed by three words that hurt my heart:
"It's my fault."
She felt immense guilt for not driving her dad to the hospital instead of waiting for EMS, even though delivering good quality CPR would have been difficult.
She felt immense shock over losing her father. And extreme concern for her mother's well-being.
But most of all, she felt extreme anger and contempt and confusion towards the cops and first responders response. In her eyes, they killed her father.
Were they really not rushing to help her dad because they thought he had COVID-19?
Were they really going to let her dad die because of an incorrect assumption?
What. The. Fuck.
COVID-19 is such a monster, it does not have to infect to kill.
It seems those with non-COVID diseases have been forgotten in the COVID-19 era. They no longer matter. Their lives have taken on the role of second-class citizens. And we are failing them. And lives are being lost as a result.
She had the right to be beside herself. It seemed to her like they did not care at all. It seemed for them, it was just another COVID-19 death. Except it was not.
And if this is indeed true, then some people have reached a point of desensitization to death in the COVID-19 era which is wholly unacceptable. And they should no longer be charged with the task of saving others lives as a result.
Because as Aristotle stated so aptly:
"Tolerance and apathy are the last virtues of a dying society."
*NB: Lin gave me permission to share and provided me with the photo.*