Wednesday, April 8, 2020
At Mount Sinai, ‘moments of chaos and calm’
Those N95 masks hurt.
To work, they must be worn tight. Within 20 minutes, the straps pinch your ears and the mask starts digging into your nose.
The masks need a tight seal to keep the coronavirus out. Doctors and nurses at Mount Sinai Hospital test their masks by reading aloud while saccharine is sprayed in their faces. If they taste sweetness through the mask, they’re dead — or they might be, if that mist were coronavirus droplets instead. Stubble on men can also throw off a mask’s fit.
Add goggles and gloves and hairnets and protective body coverings, then start treating a patient.
”It gets hot, it gets a little claustrophobic,” said Kimberly Lipetzky, a nurse at Mount Sinai. “I had a couple codes, doing CPR in full gear. Your goggles fog, and you’re trying to navigate this situation while of course performing at peak ability.”
”After an hour it starts getting really uncomfortable,” said nurse Adam Garrison. “It feels like the bridge of your nose is going to disintegrate.”
The COVID-19 crisis is gathering force in Chicago. Right now, infected patients still arrive at Mount Sinai, on Chicago’s West Side, in fits and starts.
”We’re definitely vacillating between moments of chaos and calm,” said Lipetzky. “Overall, there’s this heaviness, this weight in the air when you’re wondering, what’s going to come in the door? How do you be ready?”
In part by wearing two masks, layered, with donated, handmade cloth masks on the outside to protect the integrity of the vital N95 underneath. But that brings its own difficulty.
”It’s not exactly easy to speak,” said Garrison.
Which can impede the complicated, life-or-death communication that goes on in a hospital. A COVID-19 patient can deteriorate rapidly, can walk into the hospital in the morning complaining of shortness of breath and be on a ventilator by afternoon.
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