'We all knew what he thought of us, how he valued our lives'

American Jewish doctor shocked to find Nazi tattoos on COVID-19 patient

Taylor Nichols speaks of the challenge of attending to a man who may not have done the same for him, while ultimately doing everything to save the patient’s life

California doctor Taylor Nichols speaks to ABC News (video screenshot)
California doctor Taylor Nichols speaks to ABC News (video screenshot)

A Jewish doctor working with coronavirus patients in California shared his shock about the moment he saw neo-Nazi tattoos on the body of a severely ill man he was treating.

As his team — which included a Black nurse and a respiratory specialist of Asian descent — prepared the man to be intubated, Taylor Nichols said on Twitter he spotted the Nazi tattoos.

“The swastika stood out boldly on his chest. SS tattoos and other insignia that had previously been covered by his shirt were now obvious to the room,” he tweeted Monday.

“We all saw. The symbols of hate on his body outwardly and proudly announced his views. We all knew what he thought of us. How he valued our lives,” said Nichols, who was later interviewed about his experience by various media outlets.

Nichols talked about the conflicting emotions he felt, after months of battling the disease and seeing patients die, while living in isolation to avoid contaminating loved ones, constantly in fear of falling ill himself.

“Unfortunately, society has proven unwilling to listen to the science or to our pleas. Begging for people to take this seriously, to stay home, wear a mask, to be the break in the chain of transmission,” he said.

Nichols said the man — whom he described as older and heavy set, his teeth lost to years of methamphetamine abuse — had begged him to save his life.

“Don’t let me die, doc,” he said, according to Nichols.

The man was admitted to the hospital near Sacramento in the middle of November, already “clearly working hard to breathe. He looked sick. Uncomfortable. Scared.”

“I reassured him that we were all going to work hard to take care of him and keep him alive as best as we could,” said Nichols, admitting he had asked himself how the man might have acted had the roles been reversed.

“For the first time, I recognize that I hesitated, ambivalent. The pandemic has worn on me,” he said. “And I realize that maybe I’m not ok,” he said.

Nichols later told the San Francisco Chronicle that when he saw the hate symbols tattooed on the man’s body, “I didn’t feel compassion for him in that moment.”

And he told ABC News he wondered “how much he would have cared about my life if the roles were reversed.” It “really made me double down and look into myself and extend that compassion towards him.”

Working in a hospital which treats many people who are homeless or drug addicts during a raging pandemic, he added, had taken its toll.

Nichols said he’s “faced these situations countless times since medical school… The swastikas. The racist patients. Every single time I feel a bit shaken, but I went into this job wanting to save lives.”

Nichols said he did not know if the patient with the Nazi tattoos had died or not, but said he had done everything he could to save his life before moving on to the next patient.

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