[Editor’s note: What follows is a heartfelt departure letter to the City of Seattle and its residents from a local first responder who will be out of a job on Monday, October 18, along with hundreds of other police officers, troopers, firefighters, and paramedics, and that’s just the first responders. Many other professions are out of luck (and jobs) as well.
The author of this letter has given her blood, sweat, time, and tears to the city, and the city repaid her by booting her for not feeling comfortable with an experimental vaccination for COVID-19.
Governor Jay Inslee may think he’s doing the state a favor by forcing people to choose between their livelihoods or an injection they don’t want, but he is dooming public health and safety far beyond what we can imagine. Unfortunately, we’ll be finding out just how bad it will get come Monday when those heroes who spent the last 18 months protecting us, serving us, and fixing us when we were sick or injured are tossed out from their jobs and left without unemployment benefits.
Red Voice Media is grateful to all the heroes out there, and especially to those who are standing up for themselves, their convictions, and their beliefs. You’re strength is honorable and we are praying for an ultimately favorable outcome. Thank you.]
Dear Seattle… I bid you thank you and farewell.
Most of the time when I meet you, it is your worst day. Heart attack, stroke, auto accident, overdose, anaphylaxis, death, childbirth, fire and infinite other emergencies. I have protected you, held your hand, cried with you, celebrated with you, advocated for you, and for some, I am the last caring face you see before you pass away. I have met you in countless locations. Whether your home is in Magnolia or under an I-5 overpass, I am there to help, without question or reservation. I do not look at your house, your church, your skin, who you love, whether you partake in illegal activity and certainly not your illnesses. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to care for you.
I am a City of Seattle Critical Care Paramedic, Senior EMT instructor and first responder and so very humbled and proud to serve YOU. However, I may not be much longer because I am different and apparently, there is no room for “different” even if it means my community will suffer because of it.
After 27 years of serving my community, after October 18th, I am being told I will no longer be able to help when you need me most. Why? Because of a mandate that says I can no longer do patient care, no compromises, because medically speaking, my body is different. I cannot get the vaccine. It’s potentially extremely harmful for me. So now I will lose my livelihood and the work I love and serving you Seattle. My heart is breaking. The thought of losing the ability to do what I am made to do is unthinkable. Furthermore, the Seattle Fire Department, my family, is fractured at the core, dividing my brothers and sisters like strangers when once, we stood in unity. There is no tolerance, understanding, equity, or inclusiveness in this process, everything I thought this city and my department stood for.
I know what different feels like.
I came into the Seattle Fire Department in 1995. A female firefighter EMT was still considered a non-traditional career and at times I was not fully accepted. I was tested at every turn and under a microscope because of my gender. There were days that were really difficult but worth the journey. Our department has worked hard to be a solid team and inclusive and equitable. I believed as a city and department we had evolved.
The virus. I am medically trained, and I get it. People are scared and it’s been REALLY confusing. This disease has had so many twists and turns. It has taken us down a crooked lane that changes direction daily. We have received so many confusing facts from sources like the WHO, CDC, DOH and other reputable science. For example, masks, no masks, masks inside, masks for unvaccinated, no masks for vaccinated, back to masks inside, masks outside, clean the surfaces, no need to clean the surfaces, social distance 10ft, 6ft, no 3ft, 6ft. Which vaccine? Pfizer, Moderna, J&J. Safe, not safe, some safe, now all safe, adverse reactions, some death related, no death related, ok maybe some, but rare. Ok for adults only, now kids 12 and up, now 5 and up. Vaccinated will not transmit disease, vaccinated can transmit, but only a small percentage, ok maybe more vaccinated to vaccinated transmission, we just don’t know. Restaurants open, then close, then outside, then back inside, then inside, but vaccinated only. Percentages varying from source to source and changing daily. The struggle is real and we are all hurting because of the unknowns.
Here’s what I do know. Paramedics and firefighters have been thoroughly trained to save lives in the worst of conditions and COVID-19 is no different. I know first-hand what it is like to have to intubate a patient struggling to breathe and in respiratory failure due to the virus. I’ve seen a lot in regard to this virus and vaccines in the last months and I can assure you, your safety and care is and has always been at the forefront. The PPE we use meets or exceeds the DOH and CDC’s recommended PPE (N95, gloves gowns, goggles). Our current practice with PPE has yet to cause our patients to become sick with COVID-19. We were never the source of public outbreaks or patient transmission because IT WORKS. We have the tools and procedures in place to keep our communities safe. We always have.
What is not safe and will potentially do more harm than COVID itself is this mandate.
What is not talked about in the media or by your state, city and department leaders is that that your safety is at risk even with a fully vaccinated department. As you see, if this mandate is executed and my brother and sisters who are seeking exemptions due to medical or religious/personal beliefs are fired or given “accommodations,” they will not be there to answer your call. They will no longer be able to work in Operations and serve you the citizens as first responders. And consequently, there will simply not be enough of us. I can’t count the collective years of experience that will be lost if this comes to be.
You see, even if our exemptions are approved, the accommodations, if provided, do not allow us to serve our community as first responders. This will affect more than those losing jobs, it puts our communities at risk.
This mandate will do more harm than good.
After October 18th if this should come to pass, the city will be too short staffed to support the neighborhoods we love. Stations will be browned out (taken out of service). Medic units that are already short staffed means you may have to wait longer for life-or-death help. My brothers and sisters who will be left will be fatigued and overworked as they try to fill in the gaps – posing a risk to your safety and theirs.
This is not sustainable, and these are not “just hire someone” jobs. It will take years to make up the deficit and the damage. We have men and women who tested and worked for years to get hired. That is why Seattle has the best of the best and we are proud of that. First responders are not easily replaced. Couple this with local police and hospitals looking at the same predicament, the safety of you and your family in addition to the quality of medical care will no doubt suffer.
We as a city pride ourselves on acceptance of each other’s differences. So, who are we to judge what is right or wrong as it pertains to belief? I love that we are all different. I love that we are a tapestry of humans with colors, beliefs, and lifestyles. We wouldn’t be Seattle if we didn’t represent our differences.Why are we taking away jobs because of personal beliefs? Our Governor, Mayor and Fire Chief are blindly and callously stripping your servants of their jobs for a one size fits all solution that will have more fallout than benefit. This isn’t the answer.
Seattle, my community, my wish is to continue to care for you. Preserve life and property as I took an oath to do. My brothers and sisters wish the same. We are all doing the best we can for our families and communities in this ever evolving and changing situation. We are trained professionals who want to keep doing our jobs and serve you using the tools in place that have already proven to keep you safe.
To my brothers and sisters in the department, we have battled real life and death emergencies together and it has been a privilege. I felt safe with my life in your hands, and I will never regret following my calling to the SFD. I knew my days of serving would not last forever, but I could never have guessed it would end like this.
Your grateful and humble servant (SN)