I didn't get to watch the Fetterman/Oz debate live; alas, the woes of an emergency department nurse who works third shift. What I got to see, in glimpses at social media and a scroll-through of Twitter on a break, was shocking.
Shocking, because I see people every single day who have had a stroke. Understand this sobering statistic: one in four adults will have a stroke at some point in their life. I see first-hand what happens when people cannot access primary care, let contributing conditions go untreated... and what the cost is to them personally, and us as a society. And that cost is HUGE.
I get why all the vultures are out. They desperately want to justify the media narrative to completely ignore how unfit people like Herschel Walker are, while leaning into a bullshit "b-b-b-b-both sides!!!1" schtick to claim some asinine mantle of "objectivity". And they don't get to see the effects of a stroke on people like my colleagues and I do.
I had a patient once who presented with expressive aphasia that never fully recovered. I encountered them in their acute stage, as they were having a stroke, and I cannot tell you how terrifying it is to watch someone who is fully cogent and able to understand everything going around you but being completely unable to respond to anything. I asked the patient, "Ma'am, what's your birthday?" And I could see in her eyes she was trying desperately to give it to me. But it wouldn't come out, no matter what she did or how hard she tried, and she just began to cry- her consciousness effectively locked into her own brain, unable to speak. When I saw her next, after years of physical therapy, she was still halting her speech- two or three words at a time, mostly monosyllabic- but was at least in a much better place.
I could spend another five thousand words chronicling cases like that. And so I have to tell you, to be doing as good as John Fetterman was doing last night is a huge win for any ER, ICU, or Neuro nurse watching.
That doesn't make the news folks' happy, of course, or anyone invested in a "horse race" mentality. That kind of honesty wouldn't let them be able to ignore the fact Dr. Oz thinks decisions about abortion should be made on a conference call between a woman, her obstetrician, the mayor, and her local precinct captain, just as God intended it, or any of the dozens of other completely out-of-touch and unacceptable positions he holds. "A candidate who bought a second mansion in a different district just to run for office, and hasn't even bothered to sell the first or make this district their home? Eh. Dime a dozen. A stroke victim who is doing better than most people would be in their predicament? WOO, LETS BURN 'EM, FELLAS!"
I also- and I realize this is somewhat impertinent as someone who's running for a seat in the oldest legislative body in the United States of America, so I apologize to anyone who may need a fainting couch- feel I should give a big "go **** yourself" to all of the performative concern about John Fetterman from people who lauded Herschel Walker as having a brilliant debate performance. "This poor man should be in rehab," one said. "How could the Democratic party do that to anyone?" another asked, as if any of them actually cared one iota about John Fetterman’s actual well-being.
Let me explain something to those seemingly unredeemable ghouls, something I had to come to grips with long ago as an ER Nurse: despite all of our medical advances, the death rate is still 100%. Age only goes in one direction. You cannot escape the consequences of it, not even if you are a multi-billionaire. And with age, comes health problems; increased risk of more. And statistics say that one in four of all of us will have a stroke, not even mentioning the hundreds of other age-related maladies that are in store, that none of us will miss if we live long enough.
I simply hope that, at that point that happens, those people will be granted more grace and humility and understanding than it's clear they'd ever grant someone else.
Kellen Squire is an emergency department nurse from Charlottesville, VA running to flip the bluest seat the Virginia GOP still holds in the Virginia House of Delegates. Donate to our grassroots campaign today!