Approved… what does that mean?

The long awaited words... delivered in an e-mail
The long awaited words… delivered in an e-mail

I posted this picture on facebook last week with the hope of blogging about my journey in  obtaining exemption from mandatory flu vaccination. I am still trying to process enough to put it all into intelligent, wise words (like I could do that!) I suppose I will start with answering just the facts,  answer the 5 questions; who, what, where, when and why?

  1. The who: Me and the corporation (who will remain nameless) that I work for.
  2. The what: Mandatory flu vaccine, or loose your job.
  3. The where: Here in the mid-west, but really it is happening all over the country.
  4. The when: The last 6 months
  5. The why: That my dear friends is a tough question to answer…

More facts… I thought I would give you a rough timeline. You can fill in the times between with much debate, praying, running, talking, crying, questioning, anger, laughter and frustration!

  • Early summer received an e-mail stating there will be mandatory flu vaccine or face voluntary resignation at my job.
  • Start PRAYING lots (see below)
  • Replying to the senders of said e-mail asking about possible exemptions.
  • I am told there will be exemptions granted, info to follow.
  • Weeks roll on, and I am compiling my info of articles concerning flu vaccine.
  • Receive notice that you may apply for a medical or religious exemption, forms to be found on website.
  • Read said forms… where do I ‘fit’ I am healthy, no medical exemption, could I ask for religious? (I so don’t like the word religious, I have a relationship with God, not a religion).
  • Religious? YES, I feel that I shouldn’t take this due to my beliefs, however these are not necessarily my organized “church’s” beliefs, but my sincerely held beliefs and faith in God, does that count?.
  • Contact vaccine attorney to discuss options.
  • Retain said attorney after first consultation.
  • Start writing exemption statement with the help of attorney and spiritual guidance from wise elder of my church.
  • PRAY… God is this what you would have me do?
  • File exemption papers at deadline with accompanying legal letter from lawyer explaining law and Religious freedoms under Title IV of the Civil Rights Act 1964.
  • Received a letter mid October stating exemption accepted! PRAISE GOD.
  • I believe the original deadline was pushed a few times due to the amount of people seeking exemptions.
  • At work 3 days letter, open e-mail stating “please disregard letter” you are NOT approved.
  • Emotions fly! pray for control, pray for wisdom… sarcasm and fight boil inside.
  • Calls made to no avail of “this mistake.” Sorry was all they could say, people make mistakes!.
  • Need more supporting documentation that this is a sincere belief, statement wasn’t good enough!
  • More attorney talk.
  • Find others in similar battle through vaccine attorney (9 total, in same corporation). We join forces.
  • Letter sent from vaccine attorney, again explaining the law to corporation.
  • Vaccine attorney talks to hospital attorney.
  • Corporation replies with again moving (will the flu season be done before this debate?)
  • Deadline of vaccine mandate to Jan. 15 for deliberation.
  • Letter sent from workplace asking for more “proof” of sincerely held beliefs, a sworn statement, plus release of medical records.
  • Start seeking litigation attorney’s in area.
  • Look at EEOC options.
  • Start hearing in the news of more nurses loosing their jobs over mandate. Emotions!
  • Before Christmas meet with Christian Law Association Lawyers about case and options.
  • CLA lawyer and vaccine attorney share info.
  • CLA lawyer speaks to workplace lawyer, demands of additional info tweeked.
  • After the holidays concede to last 2 request from corporations
  • Get original statement notarized, letter from my MD concerning my beliefs against vaccines, cover documents in prayer, overnight them to workplace Jan. 9.
  • January 14th, still hadn’t received e-mail.  Calls made and finally the above e-mail sent.
  • All 9 employees that I was fighting with also received exemptions.

Now you have the facts. Care to ride on a little roller coaster of emotions, I know cliche, but that is just what it was.

This is such a hot topic, with so many levels, science, medicine, beliefs, fears, truths, lies all surrounding the flu vaccine. Is it possible to sit down and tease it all out? It’s like teasing out a bad tangle in your hair, it is nearly impossible, just cut it out and be done. (yep I did that one as a child!) It would be easy to say “Okay, thank you God” I get to keep my job, I don’t have to take the vaccine and I can keep doing what I have done for 31 years, nuff said move on, go for a run. But I is it done? Life has changed.

I believe in choices. I believe that there are consequences good and bad to all choice. I believe that people should make informed choices!

Making this choice was not entirely popular, especially since I am a nurse. In the past few years when they were passing out the flu shot at work, I would politely decline despite a little leaning from management. This year it came down as a mandate… how did I not see this coming? I had been reading information on vaccines for awhile. I knew it was coming. When I read the mandate I felt my heartbeat quicken I got felt my face go red, tears in my eyes, and the thought that there was no way I could take the flu shot, followed by; am I crazy? This is my career. The prayers started. The journey began.

God can you hear me? You saved this body from all the abuse I threw at it for years. You saved me from suffering consequences I deserved, and in the last 5 years I have been on a quest to heal, strengthen and reverse affects of “life.”  God you saved me from spiritual and physical death. Psalm 139:14 “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Are you not my protector? Do I not have faith that you will carry me through health, illness, life, loosing a job? Lord give me wisdom to fight this well! Give me peace to know I am on the right path, no matter what that means.

Long runs, reading, research, discussions all came back to a peace to not take the vaccine, come what may… at times I didn’t even understand why I was so convicted, but I always had peace…

Really? I would be willing to loose my career? Critics were saying that a nurse who didn’t take the flu shot was not putting their patient first. One person sated “they are idiots!”For 31 years I have been going in and out of hospitals. My career started in Kentucky, learning Appalachian culture so I could relate to my patients. Learning about the how fragile life is, and how wonderful the body can heal despite self inflicted gunshots, or a 17 year old crashing up his car! I assisted with 35 births while working in Alaska. I watched life slip out of a body on a deserted roadside in South Carolina in the middle of the night while a after one bad turn. I have held hands of grieving families after a child died. I laughed with a boy of 15 who was 85% burns as the leeches jump off his fingers and I tried to chase them down. I have been out in the snow at 3 a.m., temperatures freezing to pick up a trauma patient and fly them to care. I have prayed over patients in Africa were little medicine or equipment existed, praying for a miracle! I have wiped up more blood, sweat, tears and other unmentionable body fluids then I care to remember. I have rejoiced with people when illness and disease turned to healing. I have missed meals, waited way to long to go to the bathroom and laughed till I cried with other nurses over life, death and illness in a way only another nurse can understand. I don’t say this to make much of me. I made the choice to be a nurse, or should I say God put it on my heart. I share all this to express the deep hurt when someone implies my choice not to take a flu vaccine is being selfish and putting my patients at risk. I believe that if I take care of my health, wash my hands, follow other protocols that don’t require taking a shot and IF I get sick I stay home. Florence Nightingale, you know Flo? She is the nurse that taught doctors that washing their hands and cleaning up things would decrease the spread of disease and illness. I am not as old as Flo, but I still believe that a little of the basic therapies goes a long way to healing. I will do these things to prevent my patients from getting sick. No matter what I might take home that said patients give me… that is MY choice.

How could I allow someone to inject a vaccine into my body, for a possible prevention of flu, that may or may not (62%) be effective in preventing said illness?  HEAR ME WHEN I SAY THIS, I don’t believe that you lack faith if you take a vaccine. But for me it was a matter of faith. Faith that God is in control of ALL things. He is the one who decides that in spite of my efforts to keep “this temporary dwelling place of the Holy Spirit” healthy,  He will decide if I become sick or not! I trust in Him, not a flu shot.

My heart hurts for those nurses and other medical professionals who have lost their jobs because of their convictions that the flu shot was not for them.

During this trial, I realized that in many ways this had nothing to do with the flu shot and everything to do with it. It had to do with whether someone can tell another person to take a drug, or loose your job (that just sounds bizarre as I write it like that). This had to do with rights being whittled away; covered up in the guise of doing the right thing. It had to do with learning more of what integrity and conviction of beliefs look like. It had to do with so many other paths that I don’t want to walk down right now.

I am not a person who deals well with conflict. I don’t like to fight. The fight came from the conviction that what I held dear was being questioned. The fight came from the peace I had each time I prayed. The fight came from knowing others couldn’t/wouldn’t fight and someone needed to stand strong.

I don’t want to get into the politics or the medical debate surrounding the flu vaccine in this post This is about my journey.

I get to keep my job, but life has changed. It can’t just stay the same after a journey like this. Give me a few weeks to mull over this more. I could be unemployed and looking at life through different eyes today. A couple of friends last night challenged me with whether I had fully grasped that life could have been drastically different… I replied, that probably not, but that I do know one thing, God is the same no matter what the outcome would have been, He is good, He will provide. That the same God that gave me peace to battle, would carry me through, that in the grand scheme of eternity this is not even a blip! God is good!

As I said I am not going to debate here the medicine, science, evidence, lack of evidence or anything else about flu vaccines in this post. I do ask everyone to make informed choices about what you take into your body no matter what the substance!! If you would like more information about vaccines look into this website: http://www.nvic.org/

I want to thank GOD, my family, my friends and all those that prayed, encouraged, supported and listened to me during this time! There were moments that I questioned my sanity. There were times when expressing my conviction I could see the look in someone’s eyes that they just didn’t get it, it was just a flu shot! maybe I was wacko, in this economy I would risk loosing my job, over a little flu shot?

I also want to thank my employer. Yes, I do want to thank them.This battle strengthened my faith, brought me closer to God, how could I not thank them for that? It made me question my convictions about living life healthy and what I want to do with those convictions. I have to thank them that they chose to retain good employees, despite other large hospitals choosing the opposite.

I by no means think that the war is over, just this battle. Healthcare is changing. I have always encouraged my patients to be informed. I have always believed prevention is the best medicine. Even when my faith was not strong, I knew that God was the great physician, seeing patients survive when medicine said they shouldn’t, and God healing when medicine was tapped out… or not available.

I won’t quit fighting for health, for my patients or myself… come what may!

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Wholesome Ness says:

    Wow, awesome post and well done! Good on you for standing up for your beliefs and fighting!

  2. Colette says:

    I am currently in nursing school. And I do not believe vaccines–ESPECIALLY the flu vaccine, should be mandated. I am scared that I will have to have this fight on my hands soon. It is really scary. I am one of those people that end up having really weird reactions to things. Epidural during childbirth left me with chronic daily headaches, thyroid medications make my headaches worse–most people have the opposite. The supplement I take to help heal my guts from antibiotic damage are usually well tolerated, they make me not sleep. I have managed to opt-out so far, but as I work as a scrub tech it isn’t a big deal, I wear a mask anyway. But I don’t want to have to fight to say no, and it makes me sad and scared that I might have to.

    1. zebveg says:

      Stick to your beliefs and do research. It has become much easier for me at my current job to opt out. The first battle was hard, but I believe they realized I wasn’t backing down.

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