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
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.