Dr. Taylor Nichols looked at the COVID-19 patient in front of him who was struggling to breathe. As he made preparations to provide emergency medical treatment, he paused. The man was covered in Nazi tattoos.
“Don’t let me die, doc,” the man said to Nichols, breathlessly.
Later, Nichols told the story on Twitter , and it spread across the platform, gathering responses, retweets and “likes” — about 30,000 combined by the end of the day.
Nichols, a Jewish emergency medicine physician in Sacramento, said he has seen and cared for patients with similar tattoos many times throughout his career, but this was the first time he recognized his ambivalence.
Yet here we were, working seamlessly as a team to make sure we gave him the best chance to survive that we could. All while wearing masks, gowns, face shields, gloves. The moment perfectly captured what we are going though as healthcare workers as this pandemic accelerates. 5/— Taylor Nichols, MD (@tnicholsmd) November 30, 2020
In his tweets, Nichols reflected on why the heightened risk associated with the pandemic impacted his response to the tattoos.
He explained that unprecedented fear and uncertainty, as well as many Americans’ rejection of science and COVID-19 safety measures, has taken a toll on him and other healthcare workers on the frontlines.
And isolation because we don’t want to be responsible for spreading the virus, knowing that we are surrounded by it on a daily basis. Isolation because no one else can truly understand this feeling, these fears, the toll of this work. But we soldier on. 7/— Taylor Nichols, MD (@tnicholsmd) November 30, 2020
Nichols said the pandemic has worn on him. But despite his frustration and moment of hesitancy, he and his team worked seamlessly to give the patient the best chance to survive.
In his final tweets, Nichols expressed his feelings of vulnerability.
For the first time, I recognize that I hesitated, ambivalent.
The pandemic has worn on me, and my mantra isn’t having the same impact in the moment. All this time soldiering on against the headwinds, gladiators in the pit.
And I realize that maybe I’m not ok. End/— Taylor Nichols, MD (@tnicholsmd) November 30, 2020
Nichols has received an overwhelming amount of support from people on Twitter, some of whom are healthcare workers themselves, and some who have lost loved ones to COVID-19. However, some have criticized Nichols for admitting to letting his “personal bias” affect his work, even if it was just a thought.
The Forward has reached out to Nichols, but did not receive an immediate response.