Words from a Frontline Physician in New York City


Gabriel Lockhart, MD, a critical care pulmonologist for Denver’s National Jewish Health, volunteered on the frontlines in New York’s battle against COVID-19. He shares insights and encouragements.
 

 


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Transcript

Dr. Lockhart: We first looked into going into New York when they were really getting a shortage of physicians and nurses and respiratory therapists, and with us being a leading respiratory institute in the nation, we really should have a hand in, in helping out in New York. And we have a great relationship with the Respiratory Institute at Mount Sinai and we reached out and asked, "How can we help?"

Dr. Lockhart: This was essentially my call to duty, this is my specialty, this is what I trained for and I was ready to answer that call. The first New Yorker that we saw, when we landed was our driver and he was wearing a mask. There was so much tension in the air, it was eye opening, it was the first introduction to, "Oh, this is the real deal." The majority of my ICU was full of patients who were infected with COVID, vast majority were on the ventilator. It's tough on us when we are doing our best to give them the best chance to come out with a minor miracle, and when that doesn't happen at tears us up too.

Dr. Lockhart: It's heartbreaking to not allow family members to physically come into the hospital. We have their loved ones who are on life support and often are not surviving, and to not allow family members to come in and say their goodbyes, have their peace with the patient that's absolutely heartbreaking. We'd really don't let the patients die alone. You try to be at their bedside and give them a moment of peace when they do pass.

Dr. Lockhart: I believe that our medical providers, they've been so headfirst going into the battle of the hospital day that you kind of forget what life was like before all this started. There can be a cumulative effect over time where they're physically drained, mentally drained and emotionally drained. But at the same time, there's a noticeable difference in how we're approaching these patients and we're getting improvements and we're starting to see a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel that maybe we are starting to get a little bit of a noticeable benefit and progressing to overcoming this pandemic.

Dr. Lockhart: As the week went along, and I saw the human spirit of the physicians there and saw how progress was being made from the medical community, it was almost like I woke the next day feeling like the sun was shining a little bit stronger, and it felt like the optimism that I didn't realize it wasn't there anymore had come back, and that soon, we're going to be waking up and it's going to be a sense of normalcy again and it'll be sooner than we think.


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