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Redeployed among Healthcare Heroes

"April 2, 2020: I arrived in the emergency room at NYP/Columbia University Medical Center at 7:45am for my scheduled 8am “ER-ICU” shift. I donned my PPE, which although desperately in short supply, was thankfully present that day. Lynn Ann Forrester, my intern, and I were the assigned team tasked with assisting the ER staff wherever, however, we could. The senior Medicine resident was responsible for managing the makeshift, understaffed, burgeoning ICU. The ER was under siege. It was a MASH unit. There were 17 intubated, critically-ill patients, where normally there would be zero. Death and devastation prevailed; instinct and adrenaline were our constant partners. We didn't stop to think, to breathe - the task at hand too grave. Quickly I taught Lynn Ann how to obtain ABGs, we would repeat this about 20 times during the shift; we placed NG tubes, adjusted ventilator settings and offered our skilled hands wherever needed. We comforted the agitated, called family members for final goodbyes and held dying patients' hands. Those first 12 hrs were gut-wrenching – frightened and alone patients emergently intubated, with the sickest among them dying before our helpless eyes. We watched as our frontline healthcare heroes – our incredible ER doctors, nurses, and respiratory therapists – struggled to save lives. Through their weary eyes I could see their exhaustion and fear, but I could also see their resolve, their grace. I prayed that when they paused they would find a measure of comfort knowing their provisional assistants were the Chairs of Urology, Orthopedic surgery, and Otolaryngology. That day turned into weeks, the weeks into months as the battle raged. And so, our residents, fellows and faculty pushed their fears aside, redeployed and joined the fight, selflessly and with aplomb. Our community persevered. Of course, uncertainty still abounds, but the men and women of the ER and all their assistants are warriors, they are heroes, I am honored to have walked among them.”

Written by William Levine, MD, FAAOS