By Xenia Shih Bion, California Health Care Foundation, December 7, 2020
Taylor Nichols, MD — suited up in a mask, face shield, gown, and gloves — stood outside a patient’s room at Mercy San Juan Medical Center in Sacramento County, and he hesitated. An emergency room physician, Nichols was preparing to intubate the man, who was suspected of having an advanced case of COVID-19. Solidly built and struggling to breathe, the man begged, “Don’t let me die, Doc.” Nichols treats such patients daily, but this one was different. Nichols saw the man had multiple Nazi symbols tattooed on his body, including a prominent swastika on his chest.
Nichols is Jewish, and that day he was working alongside a Black nurse and an Asian respiratory therapist. Together, they were about to perform one of the riskiest procedures of the COVID-19 era. Intubation exposes health care workers to aerosols and droplets from an infected patient’s airways.
“The symbols of hate on his body outwardly and proudly announced his views,” Nichols wrote on Twitter. “We all knew what he thought of us. How he valued our lives.”