Since the pandemic started the family’s been doing a weekly Zoom call on Sunday afternoons. Over the course of what’s now been over a year some of us miss some weeks due to other commitments, but it’s been nice – an hour a week to share our lives with family.

I come from a large family, eight of us kids at one point, and as these things go we’ve spread around the country and the unexpected benefit of all this is we’ve been more engaged with each others lives by taking the time to reach out every week. Mom enjoys it. She’s in her nineties now, but likes plugging in and talking to the kids.

I’m one of the very few Arkansas Kienlen family members, my wife, my son and his family being the others. So it came up in this week’s call about the Delta spread. (Surely I don’t have to explain “The Delta spread.” If you’re not sure just check the front page of this newspaper.) The Delta spread being something we were asked about because Arkansas, with its low vaccination rate, is having a high infection rate as COVID-19’s latest trick moves through the population.

And sure, questions about why we thought the vaccination rates are so low, usually followed by “Don’t they know that [some numbers]?” statements.

This was only a brief part of the conversation, however, as it was pointed out that, really, arguing with people about vaccinations is an exercise in futility. “It’s like the old saying,” I said, “Don’t try to teach a horse to swim. It gets you wet and annoys the horse.”

Oh sure, others with public voices, our governor not in the least, are trying to get the word out, and best of luck to them, but here in this very small corner of Earth it seems to work out best to put out what information there is to share and let people make their own decisions.

Although: Last week I took someone close to the hospital for some tests, a CT scan. That all went, it turned out, fine, but we had to walk through the hospital down the usual long hallways to get to where the tests were conducted. (Then, of course, because it’s healthcare, we had to sit in a waiting room and leaf through some old magazines before being called.)

And now we’re leaving, now the same experience backwards as we made our way back out those same halls to the exit. And, typical hospital, we weren’t the only ones moving around, as patients and people were running around doing healthcare stuff. As we started down the hall away from the testing area, two nurses were pushing a hospital bed, a patient on it. Apparently he was going to where we just left, presumably to get some tests run.

The nurses were dressed for germ warfare, with masks with big filters on them, like painters wear in body shops, as well as face shields and the like. And as we drew up next to the bed, as we passed it, I saw the guy laying in it, a young guy. If he was over 40 it wasn’t by much.

Tubes running into his mouth from a machine mounted on the bed: Some kind of ventilator. It had that steady beeping cycle sound that machines in hospitals make, and every time it beeped he made a croak kind of sound. He was not awake. I’m presuming this was a ventilator or something like a ventilator; beep, croak, beep, croak, beep, croak … as we passed. Hospital bustle, the nurses obviously focused on their task, and us, day-tripper patients on the way to the door, not wanting to stare. But right now I can close my eyes and picture it: Beep, croak, beep, croak….. 90 seconds in my vision, tops.

I’m not telling you that you should have seen it. It’s not hard to argue how seeing something like that is an arguably traumatic experience and I don’t wish trauma on anybody. But, wet horse or no, even if the poor guy was suffering something other than COVID-19 which required him to breath with a machine (attended to by nurses dressed for germ war), I find it hard to imagine someone wouldn’t rather get a vaccine jab than have a ride on that machine.

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