Monday, December 14, 2020

‘Oh my God — this is carnage’

 ”With COVID, you can decline quickly. You can be walking, talking and within minutes have to be intubated,” said Roseland Community Hospital RN Jessica Bell. “It’s very depressing. This guy was walking, talking, friendly. To see him go so quick, it makes me sad because it can happen to anyone.”   (Photo for the Sun-Times by Ashlee Rezin Garcia)
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     Look closely, through the face shield, over the mask. You’ll see it.
     “Walk around the hospital, you can see the fatigue in people’s eyes,” said Dr. Roy Werner, director of the emergency department at Roseland Community Hospital on the far South Side. “We have an entire staff of physicians, nurses, tech staff, housekeepers, working harder than they have ever had to work.”
     Eight months into the COVID-19 pandemic, with a vaccine tantalizingly near but still not in hand, the relentlessness of fighting the virus—the endless stream of patients, the round-the-clock-shifts, the deaths, the need to plug holes in the schedule created by colleagues who are themselves sick—is grinding down hospital workers.  
     Werner said that “close to 50, 60 percent” of the emergency room staff at Roseland have already contracted COVID, including himself, and many still battle it while their colleagues struggle to carry the additional work load. That’s true across the city.
     “You can’t take vacation, you can’t escape at work,” said Dr. Meeta Shah, an emergency room physician at Rush University Medical Center on the near West Side. “Sometimes you can’t escape in your sleep. There is an overall fatigue, not being able to get the break we need. That can be exhausting.”
     The Chicago Medical Society polled its 17,000 members: two-thirds report symptoms of burn-out: physical and mental exhaustion, listlessness. emotional numbness. And that was over the summer.
     “It’s worse now, because everybody is busy all the time,” said Dr. Vishnu Chundi, chairman of the COVID-19 Task Force for the CMS. “There’s no let up.”
     He said that not only are doctors overworked, but more are coping with their own post-COVID symptoms like shortness of breath and chronic pain.
     “Now we’re seeing more of the staff getting it,” Chundi said. “They not having enough time to recover from COVID — the fatigue, the cough. They’re coming in ragged around the edges.”
     When they do, they’re facing patient death on a scale they are simply not used to.
     “It’s horrible,” Chundi said. “I’ve never seen so many people die. It’s just a number until you see it happen in front of you. Then it’s, ‘Oh my God—This is carnage.’”


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7 comments:

  1. Critical info at a critical time. Thank you.

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  2. Too bad the heroic health care workers won't get a coming home parade on Broadway in New York or State Street here in Chicago.

    john

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  3. Excellent work. I was thinking the headline in every paper should be
    “3,000 Americans Got Sick and Died Yesterday”
    Yes, in one day. And it’ll be even worse today. Yours is better.

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    1. A difficult read. I've read a couple of books about the 1918 flu pandemic, but somehow, this seems to be whole lot worse. The flu was downplayed, so as not to hinder the war effort (World War I), and hospital staffs (along with the rest of the country) went into a tizzy, just like in 2020. But half of America didn't claim the Spanish Flu was a hoax. They distanced and didn't become obnoxious and politicized maskholes, despite also having a racist president (Woodrow Wilson). Nor did the economy collapse. War production kept factories humming and Americans busy. So, yeah, this is much worse.

      When they learned that the Mayor of New Orleans had requested ten thousand body bags after Katrina, our daily birdcage liner screamed THOUSANDS DIE, in huge letters across the front page. They could do the very same thing today. And tomorrow. And the day after. And they could have done it yesterday. And the day before that.

      Another forty thousand or so and we'll be halfway to the 1918-20 numbers. Should hit that milestone by Christmas. And we'll match America's WWII dead by Inauguration Day. The mind boggles. But sadly, human beings can (and do) get used to almost anything, no matter how bad. Including seemingly endless carnage.

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  4. Emphasizing the toll on hospital staffs is important. The concentration on "beds available" as a metric for monitoring the problem can give the impression that its an easy fixable lack of physical capacity.

    Tom

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    1. Plus the situation no longer exists in which medical personnel in a section of the country not hard hit could rush over to a "hot spot." The whole damned country is a hot spot.

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  5. Back at the beginning, stories of temporary hospitals in China warned us that Covid was especially virulent. Many Americans never got the message, proven by a sign at the Freedom Plaza Drumpf rally in D.C. recently. "99 percent survival rate is no emergency" it read. Seems reasonable, until you do the math. One percent fatalities, assuming half of a population of 330 million will get infected, translates to 1,650,000 deaths. More comfortable for some to ignore the math and the science. Less so for the afflicted and the dedicated healthcare professionals on the front lines of the battle.

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