Credit: File Photo

Montgomery County Council Member Craig Rice said his mother’s heart attack this past weekend showed him the burden at a hospital experiencing the latest surge of the coronavirus pandemic.

It inspired him to repeat a plea: Get vaccinated against the virus.

During the council’s meeting on Tuesday, Rice said his mother suffered a heart attack Saturday and was taken to Holy Cross Germantown Hospital for treatment. The hospital staff there was “overwhelmed” by the number of patients, he said.

Nurses, doctors and others on staff were handling many people who needed critical care. As he talked to them and others waiting in the emergency room lobby, he learned that the majority of people who were hospitalized at Holy Cross Germantown for COVID-19 were unvaccinated.

“To all those who are unvaccinated who think, ‘You know, I can handle this on my own,’ the reality is: Think about somebody besides just yourself,” Rice said. “Think about your family and friends and how they’re going to sit there in that waiting room, and hope and pray that you make it. … Because that’s what I was doing for my mother.”

“I also was concerned about how they were both competing for the same space,” Rice said of his mother and COVID-19 patients. “There’s so many critically ill patients that go into our hospitals that need that space also, and so we don’t want to take up those spaces with people who can actually prevent being in the hospital in the first place.”

In an interview, Rice said that being in the hospital this past weekend was “overwhelming,” especially seeing the strain hospital workers were under.

“As an individual, normally when you go into a hospital, you feel as if everything is under control and [the staff] are the people who are going to take your out-of-control situation and take the reins … and it didn’t feel that way,” Rice said.  “It felt as if they were trying to grab the reins, and hold on themselves.” 

He added that it was difficult to see what other families were going through, especially with unvaccinated relatives battling the coronavirus in the hospital.

“It really is amazing to me … about folks not realizing how much people care about them, and about how them being gone impacts their families, their friends and their loved ones,” Rice said. 

During Tuesday’s meeting, Rice said that if residents don’t want to get vaccinated for themselves, family or friends, they should think about frontline hospital workers dealing with the current surge.

He said his mother-in-law, a nurse at Holy Cross Silver Spring, was fully vaccinated and boosted, yet contracted a serious case of the virus. 

She’s stable now, but it further illustrates the need to get vaccinated to protect her and others, Rice said. Health experts say vaccinations are not a guarantee against getting COVID-19, but they greatly reduce the odds of death or critical illness.

“Our health care workers on the front line are fighting each and every day to protect and care for those of you who are sick, and they’re putting themselves and their lives on the line. … If not for you, do it for the people that would be sacrificing themselves for you. It’s not too much to ask,” Rice said.

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com

Steve Bohnel

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com