Letters: One doctor’s message of heartbreak and gratitude

Source: CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Original article link:  https://www.chicagotribune.com/opinion/letters/ct-letters-vp-041020-20200409-i43zjipjtffazbmhjo3xlkqtpy-story.html

I was on a 12-hour shift recently in the intensive care unit of the hospital I work for, taking care of intubated and ventilated COVID-19 patients. These were some of the sickest patients I have ever managed, and I had the constant fear that one or several of them would die on my shift. The enemy here is a silent one. Even though we do put our lives at risk, it is an honor to care for these patients at a critical time in their lives.

We appreciate everyone for their efforts: physicians, nurses, technicians, respiratory therapists, the environmental services employees who clean the infected rooms, the individuals who help us put on and take off our safety equipment, and all the others who are placing their personal and family health at risk. We appreciate the restaurants that are feeding our staff for 60 days for free, giving us one less thing to worry about and more time to focus on patient care.

We are heartbroken that many patients will die with no loved ones near them as visitors are not allowed. We will never forget members of one family, a wife and three daughters, who parked outside the hospital and waved up and showed signs to their loved one who was sedated and ventilated. It is disturbing for medical care workers to be the ones at the bedside of these patients when they pass away, rather than their loved ones. We are their surrogate family. We all give these patients the greatest respect and dignity.

We also appreciate all those heroes who don’t work in hospitals: police and fire personnel, paramedics, grocery clerks and all others who are out there putting their lives at risk for the rest of us.

During this crisis, we have not heard one word of complaint, not one bit of self-pity — just amazing encouragement and willingness to fight and win this war. We are proud to work in health care along with all these heroes. Most will never get their names in the paper or on television, or get any sort of recognition, but nothing can be greater than trying to save a life and bring healing and compassion to those who need it most.

— Dr. Joseph W. Szokol, Chicago

Community rises to the challenge

My husband, Shu Chan, is an emergency room doctor at Amita Health Resurrection. Since this crisis started, many of our friends have wondered about his well-being and sent messages of support. After receiving an overwhelming number of messages, Shu asked me to send a text to our friends: “He thanks you for all your good wishes but what he really needs are more masks and sterile gowns — if any of you have supplies or access to such things, please send them his way for his team at the ER, AMITA Resurrection Hospital, Chicago."

One of the first friends to react was Meredith Shi, a high school teacher of Chinese. She shared his request with her friends and groups. Immediately, a group of Chinese Americans responded. It turns out they’ve been organizing donations of masks for several weeks across the six-county area. Led by Hong Liu, executive director of the Midwest Asian Health Association, they have to-date raised over $70,000 and distributed over 100,000 masks to 10 hospitals, clinics and organizations.

Recently they donated 2,700 masks to Amita Resurrection’s ER department, allowing frontline workers like my husband to continue their important work without worrying about having adequate supplies. They anticipate a big influx of patients in the coming weeks and have experienced daily increases in usage.

Given the political climate in some places and the racial profiling of particularly early COVID-19 patients, this story about a local group of Chinese Americans, mainly immigrant professionals, working tirelessly to bring more masks to community institutions, sends a powerful message about building community and unifying diverse groups across the region in this common struggle to flatten the curve and help all of us stay safe.

As a Chinese American, I’m proud to recognize that this organization has spearheaded this effort to help the larger Chicagoland community, volunteering countless hours to contribute to the safety and well-being of so many patients, health care workers and their families.

— Yvonne M. Lau, dean of academic affairs, Instituto del Progreso Latino, Chicago

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