Jasmine B. Ong
Shortly after midnight on Dec. 21, 2020 — a few days before Christmas — my father died of COVID-19.
My father, Yee Se Choa Ong, M.D., and Fellow of the American College of Cardiology (FACC), has spent the last several months working virtually every waking hour, and most of the hours he should have been sleeping, caring for COVID patients in the ICU of St. Francis Hospital in Muskogee.
On Saturday, Nov. 28, or Sunday, Nov. 29 around midnight, he collapsed in the hospital while at work. While we do not know the exact cause of his collapse, exhaustion certainly played a role. It was determined that he had suffered a traumatic brain injury, and he was transferred to St. Francis Tulsa immediately.
In the hospital in Tulsa, he experienced several ups and downs with his health, but we had plenty of reason to hope that he could recover for the most part and we could have a few more years with him.
Then he contracted COVID. As a patient. In the hospital. He began to experience respiratory distress and tested positive 18 days after his initial injury. That timeline does not allow for him to have contracted the virus before his head injury.
Since coming to Muskogee, Oklahoma, in July 1979, he dedicated his life to caring for the people of the rural and small-town communities in the region. He was sworn in as an American citizen a few years later at the Federal Courthouse in Muskogee, as his wife and then-small children looked on. It is one of my earliest memories, and one of my proudest.
My dad never retired. He was still working full-time when the pandemic hit earlier this year. He knew that as one of Muskogee’s few cardiologists, he would be needed now more than ever. At the age of 76, he was in the hospital all day and all night, while still trying to maintain his outpatient caseload at his clinic as well. He begged each and every one of his patients to wear a mask. In some of our last conversations before he got sick, he complained to me, with bewilderment, “Some people think it’s a political thing. It’s not a political thing, it’s for everyone’s own good!”
Meanwhile, you couldn’t even issue a mask ordinance for the state, and you continue to fail to do so. You didn’t take COVID seriously even after you experienced the dubious distinction of being the first governor in America to contract the virus. After you got lucky with a mild case, you continued to callously ignore the plights of regular Oklahomans as our state rose to infamy for having among the highest case counts per capita. My dad worked himself literally to death to save lives while you tweeted photos of your family at a restaurant. I didn’t get to eat meals with my dad a lot, even as a kid, because he was busy working. I also didn’t get to hold his hand while he died because I, as a person with Type 1 diabetes, would likely die if I contracted the virus. I urgently wanted to, but my mother begged me to stay away, because she didn’t want to lose us both.
Here’s my point: you are responsible in no small part for my father’s death. YOU. Your failure at every turn, your execrable performance as a leader killed him and so many others. I would tell you that I hope you die face-down, drowning on dry land from fluid in your lungs delivered there by the virus, as all your organs fail, but that’s what happened to my dad, so it’s definitely too good for you.
Instead, I wish for you this: I hope you wake up every single day knowing that you killed my dad and so many other people. I hope that, since I am to be for the rest of my life without a hug from my dad, that every time your loved ones hug you for the rest of your life, that you shudder under their loving touch knowing how many people YOU deprived of their loved ones. I want you to understand that because of your inaction and pitiful response to the pandemic, that you took out of the world a pillar of the Muskogee community, a man with friends and loved ones all over the world, a man who was far superior to you as a human being in every imaginable way.
I curse you with knowledge, since that seems to be so lacking in you now.