US nurses and doctors at the forefront of the fight against the new corona virus that has infected tens of thousands of Americans and killed hundreds are shocked by the damage the virus does to patients, their families, and themselves.
Nurses and doctors describe their frustration with device shortages, the fear of infecting their families, and their moments of tearful despair.
Here are some of their stories:
NEW YORK CONFIRMED CASES: 53,324. DEATH: 773
Dr. Arabia Mollette, an emergency doctor, started praying during the morning taxi ride to work. It takes these few minutes of peace – and some lighthearted jokes with the staff at the Brookdale University Hospital Medical Center cafeteria at 6:45 a.m. – to ground her before entering what she calls a "medical war zone" . At the end of her shift, which often lasts much longer than the planned 12 hours, she sometimes cannot hold back the tears.
"We try to keep our heads above water without drowning. We are afraid. We try to fight for everyone else's life, but we also fight for our life," said Mollette.
The hospitals where she works, Brookdale and St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, lack oxygen tanks, ventilators, and physical space. Seeing how patients suffer and knowing that she may not have the resources to help them feels personal to Mollette, who grew up in the South Bronx and has a family there and in Brooklyn.
"Every patient who comes in reminds me of my own family," she said.
At least one rescue nurse at a Northwell Health hospital in the New York City area wonders how long she can take the strain.
After the patients worsened for days and the healthcare workers and family members sob, she and her husband, who have a young son, discuss whether to leave the job she has been doing for more than a decade.
The emergency room, always a hotbed of frenetic activity, is now dominated by coronavirus cases. There are beds in the entire waiting room. The nurse, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said she saw family members drop sick relatives and say goodbye.
"You can't really tell them they may be saying goodbye for the last time," she said.
On Thursday, some nurses and doctors were moved to tears after days of physical and emotional fatigue.
"People just broke down," she said. "Everyone is very afraid of an infection … I have the feeling that many employees feel defeated."
At first, she wasn't too worried about her safety, since the coronavirus appeared to be the most lethal in the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.
This trust was broken after more and more younger patients were in serious condition.
"In the beginning, my mentality was: & # 39; Even if I catch it, I get a cold or fever for a few days," she said. "Now the possibility of dying or being intubated makes it more difficult to go to work."
There is no official data on the number of healthcare workers infected with the virus, but a New York doctor told Reuters he knew of at least 20.
WASHINGTON STATE CONFIRMED CASES: 4,310. DEATH: 189
A Seattle nurse has started examining patients at the door of her hospital for coronavirus, a different task than her usual work on various special procedures.
She doesn't talk about her new job at home because she doesn't want to worry her school-age children, she said. Her husband does not understand her work and asks her to reject tasks that could endanger her.
"I think & # 39; well, I think it's already unsafe," she said.
But she is nervous about having to part with her family if she becomes infected with the virus.
"I'll live in my car if I have to. I won't make my family sick," she said.
The nurse spoke on condition of anonymity because she is not allowed to speak to the media.
During her last shift, she was told to give napkins to symptomatic patients to cover their faces instead of masks – and not wear a mask themselves. She ignored this and wore an operating mask, but she fears that less experienced employees will follow the instructions.
"We're standing right in their faces to measure their temperatures because we don't have infrared thermometers six feet away," she said. "The recommendations seem to change depending on how many masks we have."
Her hospital has set up a box for the community to donate masks to because they have so little supplies.
She accuses the government of having done nothing more to prepare and coordinate: "People shouldn't have to die of poor planning."
MICHIGAN CONFIRMED CASES: 4,650. DEATH: 111
Sister Angela, 49, says the emergency room at her hospital near Flint, Michigan is extremely quiet. "We all said that this is calm before the storm," said Angela, who asked that only her first name be used.
The patients who run in are "very sick" with COVID-19 respiratory disease, she said, "and they just lose weight very quickly."
As they move from room to room, nurses discuss how many things they contaminate due to their limited protective equipment.
"You'd have to be walking around with Clorox scarves running all night," she said. "The contamination is just so scary for me."
She accepts that she and most of her colleagues may be infected. But she is worried about her daughter and sister, who are both nurses, and worried about infecting her 58-year-old husband.
Angela's daughter sent her three children, including an 18-month-old child suffering from asthma, to her father to avoid possible infection.
"I usually see my grandchildren twice a week and I haven't seen them. It's difficult. I just can't understand what my daughter is going through," said Angela.
Many of their employees have done the same and packed children for life with relatives because they are afraid not to become infected with the disease so much, but to pass it on.
Some of them talk about quitting because they feel exposed.
Angela would not judge her, she said, but she recently said to a friend: "You need to remember what happens when your child gets sick or your mother gets sick, who will take care of her when you go to the hospital bring when all of us just go? "