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The Trauma of Caring for Coronavirus Patients

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The Trauma of Caring for Coronavirus Patients

“How do we as doctors and nurses decide we did a good job?”

[MUSIC PLAYING] “I had a young patient who was doing well. And then one morning, his blood pressure started dropping. Unfortunately, he passed away. And I just kind of broke down and just cried. I tried to pull myself together because I wanted to notify his mother about what had happened. And she was so appreciative, but I feel like I’d failed him.” “Sometimes, I wouldn’t sleep. My mind was just going continuously, thinking of not doing the right thing for the patient. That feeling’s never left me. It just hits me. I think it’s still fresh. It’s still fresh. The wounds are still fresh.” “I think as doctors, we try to put on a strong front and put on a strong face. But the anxiety, the fear, the exhaustion, and the absolute frustration. Even now, months later, I’m still trying to battle those emotions.” “Every time someone dies, every doctor, every nurse, every therapist feels responsible. I think about the patients who died. I think about their families. I thought about them a lot on Mother’s Day, on Father’s Day.” “The scars on my face from the N95s will certainly heal. But the emotional scars I will have for the rest of my life. There is one patient that I will carry with me for a very long time. Elderly gentleman, we knew that a patient of his age with his comorbidities wouldn’t survive being on a ventilator. I contacted the family. The brother asked me if he can pray with him. I took my cell phone over, back to the stretcher side of the patient in a very noisy emergency department. And through my P.P.E., my mask, I placed the phone close to the patient’s ear. I leaned in and said, ‘Your brother wants to pray with you.’ His eyes suddenly opened up wide. I felt like the family was there with us, was witnessing everything we were doing for his loved one. In about a week’s time, I found out the patient succumbed to his illness. It hurt. I cried. I just felt that I was very close with the family. I felt like I knew them.” “I can’t Google what to say to another physician when their patient dies. It’s heart-wrenching to see their slumped shoulders, see their head down, see them using paper towels because they don’t know where the Kleenex is. How do we as doctors and nurses decide we did a good job if somebody dies? I think that part of that definition is, did you know them? Did you take the time to get to know the patient?” “They were on their last breaths. We would hold their hand. And we would whisper to them, it’s OK. We’re here with you. We’re here with you.” “When you, the doctor, and you, the nurse, are having a spectacularly bad moment, you need someone to look you in the eyes and tell you, I know that you’ve done everything you know how to do. And it’s not your fault.” “We looked out for one another while trying to look out for the patients, as well. It helped strengthen us.” “There was one day that we intubated three patients within one hour. I noticed that my phone had multiple text messages.” “Hi, Louie.” “My wife sent me videos of the neighborhood kids. They made signs. And I actually have those signs hung up on my porch outside. What got us through the hardest moments during this time were the people, our colleagues, and our loved ones that were supporting us. And every day before I do a shift, I tap the signs with my hand before I get in my car. I’m never taking them down.”

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“How do we as doctors and nurses decide we did a good job?”

Once a global epicenter of the pandemic, New York City has — for now — brought things under control. But where does this reprieve leave front-line medical workers?

In the video above, we get a rare and intimate look at three — a hospitalist, a physician assistant and a palliative care physician — who worked at one of the hardest-hit hospitals in the Bronx. They’re confronting an unanswerable question: Did they do enough?

The deaths may have subsided, but medical workers are still dealing with the devastation.

Alexander Stockton (@astocktonfilms) is a producer with Opinion Video.

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