A doctor in the COVID war recalls a heart attack and the first hope of a pandemic

The sound of construction around the Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital is hard to miss. The crews are basically building a new hospital because the old hospital in south Los Angeles is small. For employees, this is a sign of recovery after two years of fatigue. The long-running construction has been postponed due to COVID-19 and is finally underway, a sign that the fight against the virus has improved.

A few months ago, the parking lot outside the Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey was a battlefield hospital. There was a large tent used for triading the sick. Today, the big tent is gone and the parking lots are being filled again.

Doctors and nurses in Sidars-Sinai, like their counterparts in the country, have seen the worst of the pandemic. They say goodbye to countless heart patients and family members who have died from the coronavirus.

Now that the United States has killed 1 million people, Sidars-Sinai staff remembers the battle.

“Of course, there were a lot of patients waiting to be seen,” the doctor said. Oren Friedman, pulmonologist, and Cidars-Sinai ICU Medical Director. “We only have the number of patients who need the support of the hospital and the ICU. This has never happened before. That was a very large number. We have never felt this way before. ”

Employees remember the first few months when there were no tests for the virus and treatment was very limited. Their colleagues became seriously ill. Patients rushed in, unable to breathe.

“I think it was very difficult for everyone in the health sector. But we relied on each other. We relied on a lot of the literature that came out, ”Friedman said during a recent visit to the hospital. “We have formed groups and committees of people who are constantly reviewing the literature and the latest. I don’t think any of us have ever been in a situation where so many people have contracted such a new disease and the information is coming out so fast. ”

Friedman, 44, has a different view. Not only was the pulmonologist able to see that the patients ’lungs were infected with COVID-19, but he became infected at the beginning of the pandemic while at work and struggled for weeks to recover. When he felt better, he went to New York City to help, while the area was flooded with the virus.

“The last two years have certainly been the most difficult period for everyone in my generation, lung and critical care medicine,” he said. “In a sense, when we all look back, it’s like being in another world. I don’t think any of us have seen so many patients with such a large volume of disease. Of course, none of us have ever seen the health care system so affected and so depressed.

For the first few months, much was unknown. The virus has spread so rapidly without vaccines and many precautions by the American public. In mid-March 2020, President Trump declared a national emergency. Medical experts’ predictions that 100,000 people may have died were immediately refuted by skeptics. But the death toll continued to rise. Doctors and nurses at the front were at war, and politics was the focus of national attention.

“It’s been very tough and scary in the last two years,” said ICU nurse Morgan Roverud. “When the pandemic started, everything was unknown. So we don’t know how to deal with COVID. ”

“It was definitely scary,” Roverud recalled. “Often I ask myself, ‘How can I do this?’ I thought. But I think it’s a teamwork aspect here [Cedars-Sinai] Marina del Rey and the friendship you have established with the staff and other management will make everything easier. “

According to hospital staff, this team work won them over. The staff worked around the clock and became one. Doctors and nurses were constantly tired as they worked to save lives. However, many patients become infected.

“I think there was a reunion because they were all on the same mission to take care of all these patients. But it was also sad and sometimes frustrating, ”Friedman said.

Friedman said he knew the wave of deaths he observed in New York could be in California and elsewhere. He was right. The halls at Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey were filled with several waves of pandemics. The sound of ventilators filling the corridors filled the lungs of the sick. COVID-19 was killing Americans.

“We’ve never seen patients with such severe pain in ventilators,” Friedman said. “It was tiring. The days are long. Everyone worked extra shifts and extra hours. People doubled in shifts. People had to have creative resources. ”

There were also high-ranking politicians and media figures who claimed that COVID-19 was unrealistic or insignificant because of the increase in pandemic casualties. There was nothing more aggravating for health workers at the ICU in Cedars-Sinai than those who claimed the virus was not serious.

“All of us ran out there, shouting, shaking the crowd and saying to the people,“ Do you understand how bad this can be? Do you understand what the hospital is like? You have to wear a mask and get vaccinated. ” It’s very sad, “said Friedman.

Friedman said that after the first wave, health workers wanted the general population to get rid of the virus, but the virus was not with Americans. “It made our job a lot harder. It seemed like a war was going on, but when people came back from the war, they didn’t believe it was a war, ”he said.

Today, after so many heart attacks and so many Americans infected with the virus, perhaps the worst of COVID-19 is over, and now we need to learn to live with it.

“With vaccines still working well against variants and we have an increase in antiviral drugs,” Friedman said, “we need to be able to control some of these numbers better than before.”

Now that there is no big tent, COVID-19 patients are reduced and the hospital is quieter. But the team has had scars for the past two years, and 1 million people have died in the United States

“This is an amazing number. That’s a number that most people don’t understand, “said Friedman. “How about a million. It’s really frustrating to know that most of them don’t need to be health care providers. ”

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