William Greenhut, DO ’08, FACEP April 28, 2020
PCOM Heroes of the Front Line
Attending Physician, Emergency Medicine, and Associate Director, Emergency Department,
Montefiore Nyack Hospital, Nyack, New York
“In New York City’s northern suburbs, we knew a hurricane was coming in late February.
Instead of running away, we chose to run toward it. We chose to stand in it for 12
hours a day, every day, not knowing when the storm would pass. We educated people
early about the outbreak. But once it became widespread, it adversely affected communities
with lower economic status and large populations of people who couldn’t easily adhere
to social distancing. … Overall, the volume in our Emergency Department is down 20
to 40 percent. But 80 to 90 percent of our new patients are suspected of having coronavirus,
so it takes a disproportionate amount of resources. We converted part of our ED into
two new ICUs. COVID-19 is a huge stress on the hospital. … At first, we were told
that COVID-19 primarily affected older people and those with respiratory problems.
That gave us a sense of calm; we were a little relaxed. I have pictures of myself
back then, just wearing a surgical mask. Then the numbers grew. Today, I wear a filtered
mask, a cap, gown and utility goggles. I get dehydrated because I need to take off
my mask to drink. I fear that the virus is on the gown, on my cap, on everything I’m
wearing. … Putting young patients on ventilators is one of the toughest things I do.
I’m 40 years old. I watch patients in their 20s and 30s in total terror, gasping for
air, looking to me for help. I share with them that the majority of people survive
the illness, but 15 to 20 percent require hospitalization for several days. I try
to give them a realistic hope. But it is an alarming experience for them—and for me.
… Our nation has a poor success rate getting patients off the ventilator. We treat
anyone over the age of 70 in respiratory distress with oxygen. We place them on their
stomachs, in prone positioning, and pray for them. If they go on a ventilator, there’s
a good chance they will never come off, never see their family again. … I’ve found
that our hospital staff has a shared, overwhelming sense of obligation to be with
our community during its time of need. We know what we are supposed to do. No one
else can do it. We take the risk. It’s our job, our calling.”
As told to David McKay Wilson
April 12, 2020
About Digest Magazine
Digest, the magazine for alumni and friends of Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine,
is published by the Office of Marketing and Communications. The magazine reports on
osteopathic and other professional trends of interest to alumni of the College’s Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) and graduate programs at PCOM, PCOM Georgia and PCOM South Georgia.