Coronavirus Social: Masked Crusaders Battle COVID-19

Liz Neporent

March 24, 2020

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's  Coronavirus Resource Center.

The coronavirus pandemic shines a spotlight on how dedicated doctors and nurses are to their patients. Despite the risk, they suit up with whatever PPEs they have and get to work. Many of them are sharing their stories on social media. Today we bring you six of them that stood out to us on Instagram.

Darria Long Gillespie, MD, emergency medicine, University of Tennessee

 

Gillespie: "I think one of the problems we are having is misinformation, which is sparking fear and anxiety in the community and causing people to act in unhelpful ways. Another problem is that the information is changing so fast. It's not unusual for guidance about how to triage patients, who we evaluate, and how to protect ourselves to change by the end of a single shift.

"Last week we were told we must use N95 masks and this week we are told to reuse whatever we have. Doctors who tested positive were told to stay home and now they are being told to put on a mask and come in. A lot of these decisions are being made not for medical reasons but due to scarcity. The virus hasn't changed but the supply chain has. We are seeing a shortage of masks, beds, doctors, and this is forcing us to create work-arounds. Last week we would not have accepted this and that concerns me.

"As I process this emotionally, I think this is why I trained to become an emergency medicine doctor, but today's COVID outbreak is unlike anything I ever expected. It's heartbreaking to see my community so scared.

"The one thing I want to tell everyone is that sitting at home does not mean you are helpless or passive. You are actively fighting this epidemic. It's the number one thing you can do to not to become my next patient. But while you are physically distancing, don't do so emotionally. Reach out, connect, provide comfort. We know what we are asking people to do is hard but please understand that it is necessary."

Tamás Szakmany, MD, director of critical illness research at the Cardiff University School of Medicine in Wales, UK

Szakmany: "My mask is off because I'm grounded as I'm possibly infected. I have very mild symptoms. I'm not more nervous than before. I have faith in my immune system and the healthcare system. I'll have my test results back on Wednesday. If it is positive, but my symptoms stay mild and I don't have fever, I can go back to work next week.

"How I was exposed is unclear. I have a lot of colleagues who got infected. I did spend the whole week on our COVID-19 ICU, and I did some aerosol generating procedures, in full personal protective equipment (PPE). Our town also has a lot of infected people and social distancing has only caught on in the last few days. We have a number of colleagues who are off sick, but many of them are already back at work."

 

 

Natalie Ball, APRN, Family Nurse Practitioner (left) at a federally qualified community health center in Connecticut.

 

Ball: "As a primary care, patient-centered medical home, we serve a diverse patient population that suffer from multiple medical and behavioral health comorbidities. We find ourselves fighting COVID-19 from a physical, mental and public health standpoint.

"Although we are used to serving a high volume of patients, we are experiencing a level of stress we have never felt before. Thankfully, my organization has been quick to respond to the crisis by creating telehealth visits to keep our most vulnerable patients safe and at home. We have also been testing via drive through outside the clinic and have stayed open to all other urgent walk-in visits.

"We never really know who (or what) is going to walk through our open door, putting us on the front lines of this battle and potentially exposing us to the virus daily, without knowing, and without any gear.

"I have had a [patient with a] confirmed case of COVID-19. Yes, I am afraid.  But I feel it is my obligation to step up to the challenge in fighting this coronavirus on all fronts.  My passion and duty as a nurse practitioner is to keep my patients safe and healthy, physically and emotionally. My deepest concern is not my own health but the health of my beloved patients.

"They are often the most vulnerable to the severe COVID-19 complications, as they suffer from diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, pulmonary disease, heart disease, substance use disorders, and mental health illnesses. I continue educating the young and healthy to stay home to protect them. It has been an important part of our work to reinforce that we are in this together as a community, to flatten the curve, and keep our ER/hospital burden to a minimum.

"Our team is made up of passionate, dedicated, and hardworking professionals who come to work daily putting their own health at risk. We are here for our community, and we are working hard to protect them. This is a public health, community health crisis that calls for solidarity. As long as there is a fight, we will continue to fight it, and we will not stop until we can ensure the health and safety of all of our patients and their families."

Sasha Shillcut, MD, cardiac anesthesiologist, University of Nebraska Medical Center

 

Shillcut: "Right now we are in massive preparation mode as we expect to take care of huge numbers of patients in respiratory distress or respiratory failure. We've been shifting manpower, building teams and getting equipment and supplies ready for what's coming. We've changed over floors in the hospital to be COVID wards. People like myself who know how to use a ventilator will be taking care of patients in the ICU on ventilators in respiratory failure due.

"We are not yet New York but we think we are probably about a week behind. That means we've had more time to prepare because we are watching how things have unfolded on the coasts. But we have had cases and they are starting to increase.

"I am not really feeling fear or anxiety. I feel grief because I know what's coming. I'm thinking about having to triage and deciding between two people who both need my help.  We do everything in medicine to save people. We don't give up on people.  I have four children and I do worry about my family, especially my husband because, as we know, adults are more susceptible. It's terrifying to think of bringing something home to them.  I've been coming home after work and taking off clothes in the garage, then putting them in a bag and washing separately them on high heat.

"On the upside, I think it's bringing out the humanity of medicine. People are seeing we care and we are people too. We are struggling to save people at the same time we are trying to save our families and ourselves."

 

 

Dara Kass, MD, associate professor of emergency medicine at Columbia University Medical Center

Kass: "I got infected and had symptoms last Monday and tested positive on Thursday. I'm not treating a high volume of COVID patients but I think I touched a surface and then touched my face. I registered as a regular patient for a virtual urgent care telehealth visit and then was tested in-house. I didn't have an issue but it is not easy to get tested right now. There are scores, perhaps thousands of patients not getting tested. Every day I do telemedicine and I tell people they probably have it but they are not getting tested.

"My symptoms include muscle aches, back pain, headaches, cough, loss of taste. I have shortness of breath on exertion but it's not too bad. I had to send my kids away to my parents house in New Jersey. It's been about a 10-day course now and I am feeling better. I will have a mild case. I feel much better and I'm almost recovered. In 2 days I can say I have survived the infection myself.

"This situation is really scary. It's going to get astronomically bad like nothing we've ever seen before. It's going to be a wave over America that is out of control. Some of us are leaving work every day with an overwhelming sense of fear and sadness. It is petrifying that we are going into this not knowing what it will look like. A lot of us are prepared for it. We are working on more telemedicine initiatives and figuring out how to take care of our patients on multiple levels." Kass is also the founder of FemInEM, an open-access resource group for women working in emergency medicine.

Daniel Messi, MD, 4th year resident in cardiology and emergency medicine, Essen, Germany.

 

Messi: "Until recently, we were still experiencing a relatively low influx of COVID-19 infected patients. Most of them are in stable condition. We are, however, preparing for the storm, knowing that with the exponential nature of spread of this disease, the worst is yet to come.

"Fortunately, we are well prepared and have made a great effort to optimize our infrastructure. We hope to have a smooth transit of those infected and suspected patients through our clinic. Being well prepared and to be ahead of the curve is what counts now. We are going strong into this battle, and we are going to win it on the frontlines.

"Colleagues with suspected infections are, however, being quarantined vigorously for the sake of the team's safety. Luckily, none of these cases has been verified so far.  All my colleagues and myself are in great health at the moment. Up to this point we are well equipped with PPEs, knowing that our clinic's administration is doing everything they can to keep the supply chain running. We are a great team. We are sticking together and pushing through those hard times together, as a team. I'm optimistic that we will pull through this and we will succeed in our fight against coronavirus.

"People here in Germany are supporting us medical professionals in such nice ways. A couple of days ago local radio stations played 'You'll Never Walk Alone' at the same time throughout the country. In the evenings, people have made up a time in which they applaud loudly on their balconies to show their support and gratitude for us healthcare workers, the healthcare warriors.

"I'm personally optimistic that we will succeed in our fight against COVID-19. But we are expecting tough times ahead of us. With 30,000 infected people in Germany as of today, right now it's still unclear how hard the wave will hit us, but I think we are well prepared."

Liz Neporent is Medscape's executive editor of social media and community. She has previously worked at ABC News National as well as other major news outlets. She's based in New York City and can be reached at lneporent@medscape.net or @lizzyfit on Twitter.

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