This frontline diary is a snapshot from NY/NJ via Dr. Smita Ramanadham, a surgeon & Heartbreaker based there. It captures the terrifying march up a steepening curve. Grateful to you, Smita, and all of the professionals thrust onto the frontlines. Here's Smita:
"This is a surreal time for many of us and so many of us feel helpless. NY has the highest number of cases and NJ is second in the country. Other states will soon follow. The fact of the matter is that the virus is brand new and we are learning something new about it every minute. No one is immune to it regardless of age or underlying medical conditions. People are dying from kids to grandparents. The hospitals are actually overrun with COVID patients and not only do they not have enough PPE or ventilators, but there is also a global shortage of medications to keep people sedated enough to be on these ventilators and keep them comfortable. There is a shortage of medical professionals and nurses, so they are graduating medical students early to be on the frontlines. These are our next generation of doctors that are now at risk. There have already been numerous reports of residents that have died from COVID. What does our future healthcare system look like if we lose so many young, brand new doctors to this...
Ultimately, the virus will spread and most of us will be infected until we develop herd immunity and the chain of spread is disrupted. The other solution is a drug to treat the disease or a vaccine to prevent it, which is a long way away. They have made great strides in R&D and I can tell you first hand that my brother who works at the FDA for new drug compliance is working endlessly to get a drug, any drug, on the market. Regardless, even if we did have these medications and vaccines, it is near impossible to produce the quantity we need. There is no way to keep up with the demand.
It comes down to this. We need to do our part. That is the only thing that can control this and flatten the curve so that the hospital systems are not overwhelmed. We need to stay home regardless of how healthy we feel because we might be infected. The only way to know we are not, is to get tested, but that doesn't mean we won't be exposed after. Every time we leave the house, we risk exposure to ourselves and others. It sucks, there is no doubt. Many of us have closed our businesses and we will take a huge hit from that. I, for one, am closed for everything other than emergencies. So it affects every business but it's really our duty to do the right thing. It amazes me that so many people are just not following these simple recommendations or understand the gravity of the situation.
I'll end with this. I hear a lot of my friends and colleagues compare this to being at war. It is in a sense but the healthcare system is not the military. We are trained to take care of the sick with the world's best technology at our fingertips but we are not trained for mass casualty to this degree. We have not done drill after drill to prepare. We cannot do "damage control" as they do in the field and ship patients somewhere else for further care. Their care ends with us. So we need to step up and stay home.
Note: This is from the first week of April. You can replace the "stay home" with a "wear a mask" for an updated directive. - DF