“Nobody Lived” ; UCSF Doctors Describe Life Inside Covid-19 “Warzones”, Plea for Citizens to Take Holiday Precautions
Only everyday citizens have the power to keep their loved ones safe, doctors write
In an opinion piece in the San Francisco Chronicle published on December 2, 2020, University of California San Francisco (UCSF) doctors Lingsheng Li and Elizabeth Dzeng share excerpts from a study to understand the experiences of volunteer clinicians who were deployed to New York City during the initial COVID-19 surge in the spring of 2020.
Their quotes from doctors and nurses — often shared anonymous — are powerful and devastating. “Nobody lived” during the early days of the Covid-19 surge in New York City, one nurse told the doctors. There was a “code blue” every 15 minutes, and each time the code was called “it was basically a patient dying.”
Other physicians described the trauma of watching other peoples’ loved ones die alone from the disease, while breathing through N95 masks soaked with tears. “I blamed myself so intensely” one doctor told Li and Dzeng, echoing a common refrain that doctors and nurses feel responsibility, sadness and traumas around the Covid-19 deaths of their patients. It’s a burden that healthcare workers are now carrying into a second wave of Covid-19 surges.
“Health care workers are not heroes”, Li and Dzeng write. They describe people doing their absolute best, putting on a brave face each day, and trying to save as many lives as possible. “You can count on us to show up to work, hold your loved one’s hands, put our heart and soul through yet another surge, but not much may be left” the doctors say in their piece.
People who choose to gather irresponsibly, Li and Dzeng say, make “an utter mockery of our efforts”. But everyday citizens are empowered to make positive changes, and to be the real heroes in the ongoing Covid-19 surge.
“We desperately need your help”, Li and Dzeng write. “Do not let this be the last holiday you get to spend with someone you love.”
The doctors recommend wearing a mask correctly, being wary of exposures over time in enclosed spaces with poor ventilation, and finding other ways to safely connect with family. They share additional suggestions in their piece, and provide resources from the CDC and other agencies for those who want to stay safe over the holidays.
Dr. Li is a close friend of mine, and I urge everyone to heed her pleas and those of her colleagues. Read her piece, understand the depth of pain (and also compassion) healthcare workers are experiencing right now, follow the suggestions she provides, and keep you and your family safe this holiday season.