Governor Lee – Please be the Leader We Elected You To Be

Critical care physician says that healthcare providers are doing their part – calls on Governor to do his part by issuing a statewide mask mandate

Dr. Stacey Vallejo

I’m Dr. Stacey Vallejo. I live in Nashville and I am a critical care physician, board certified in pulmonary and critical care medicine. We moved to Tennessee, where my husband grew up, 10 years ago, and we are raising our 3 school-age children here.

From the very beginning of my training, I have enjoyed being in the ICU – the sicker the patient, the better – because getting to know the patient, supporting their families, and helping them recover and get back home is a rewarding experience for me. Even if the patient doesn’t survive, I still value the process of providing comfort and medical knowledge to the family. I feel like I am making a difference.

However, as the COVID pandemic spreads uncontrolled in Tennessee, I am struggling as an ICU physician to care for the sickest patients I have ever seen. COVID patients have stressed us to the limit in both our emotional capacity and our resources. I struggle every day with families not being able to be with our COVID patients, because of the severity of illness that occurs over weeks and even months. Because the family cannot be at the bedside, my only option is to communicate with them using virtual platforms like Facetime, nearly every day.

Even more difficult is dealing with the knowledge that, with this virus, we can’t save as many people as we used to. The disease course is so unpredictable and it is emotionally deflating when we can’t save them. Being young and healthy does not mean that you won’t have complications if you are infected with this virus. Recently, I cared for an otherwise healthy 25-year-old whose entire family was infected. He was the only one in his family who ended up on a ventilator and ECMO treatment for 40 days. He was one of the fortunate ones who recovered and was finally able to go home to a relieved and very supportive family. Others have not had the same outcome.

Governor Lee, a statewide mandate is critical to protect more Tennesseans from suffering this fate. Please help protect our healthcare infrastructure. With rising case counts, we worry about having enough doctors, nurses, medications, medical equipment and ventilators.

As healthcare providers, we are doing our part. We haven’t been in a restaurant since March, opting instead for curbside pickup. We cancelled Thanksgiving and Christmas with our extended family. We are not happy about this, but we made these decisions to protect ourselves and the ones we love.

I am asking my fellow Tennesseans to do their part, too, so that you don’t end up in my ICU. Wear a mask, maintain social distance, stay home if you can, and gather only with your immediate family.

Governor Lee, I am asking you to do your part. It’s your responsibility as the leader of our state to protect Tennesseans, and you are the only one with the power and ability to do just that. We are tired – this has been hard – but we are especially tired of seeing all the sickness, all of the sadness. We need your help – please be the leader we elected you to be.