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Remember Ray

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It’s difficult to imagine what Ray DeMonia’s family is feeling these days. The 73-year-old Cullman antiques dealer suffered a cardiac emergency, and was taken to Cullman Regional Medical Center, which had no room for him. Emergency staff at the hospital began making calls. Forty-three hospitals across three states turned him away before a bed was located in Meridian, Mississippi, almost 200 miles away.

Ray DeMonia died on Sept. 1 in Meridian. For his family, the jarring loss of a loved one is complicated by the drama that preceded his death, and the reason for it. The 43 hospitals that had no room for Ray in their intensive care units, like Ray’s local Cullman hospital, were filled to capacity with COVID-19 patients — predominately unvaccinated COVID-19 patients.

Ray DeMonia’s story illustrates an oft-ignored facet of the COVID-19 pandemic and the unnecessary crises and debates over rights and freedoms that have arisen from it.

Ray DeMonia’s family has an expectation – even a right, perhaps – to expect the availability of nearby health care for their loved one’s medical emergency.

Today, hospitals across the state remain stressed to the point that several are being assisted by teams of federal health workers. Some hospitals in our state have refrigerated trailers parked outside to accommodate the bodies of the scores of COVID dead, most of whom entered the hospital unvaccinated, and with the hope of pulling through the illness and leaving through the front door.

Meanwhile, all across the state are people like Ray DeMonia, who may suffer the usual day-to-day health emergencies — heart attacks, aneurisms, car crashes, strokes, or falls — and desperately need medical care.

It’s the responsibility of us all to do our part to ensure there are beds available. The most effective way is to get vaccinated.

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