Updated: Dec 21, 2020
The thousands of people with covid have faces. Here’s how I met Dave.
COVID is out of control. Envision the faces of those thousands of people who get COVID each day. Picture a person, not a number. I know I do.
In the middle of a hellish week treating COVID patients, I discussed resuscitation planning with the father of my 30-something-year-old patient. Let’s call him Dave. Through the previous night, Dave’s oxygen levels plummeted. We started high levels of breathing support. Somehow, he was still fully awake and alert.
Dave was diagnosed with a mental delay at birth. Despite his slow responses, Dave was very high functioning and was able to exhibit logical decision making. He reminded me much of my sister, who is a high-functioning person with Down Syndrome.
Dave gazed up at me from his hospital bed with high pressured oxygen pumped into his mouth and nose. I asked the man with a cherub-like face, “If you stop breathing, would you like us to place a tube down your throat to help you breathe? If your heart stops beating, do you want us to pump on your chest and shock you to bring you back?”
Dave’s beady eyes welled up with tears. “I think you scared him,” said Dave’s Dad. I explained that adults sometimes make hard decisions but reiterated that the doctors and nurses needed to know what to do in those situations.
Dave shook his head. “Ok, so no to the tube.” The father said he wants us to do CPR and give drugs if Dave’s heart stopped. I accepted this but reminding them that bringing the heart back without improving oxygenation likely won’t do much good. Then I confirmed that we’d do whatever they want if those circumstances arise.
Though Dave laid in the hospital bed in front of me, I saw my sister. As I left the room, sweat poured from my brow. I hyperventilated, and my lips quivered. It took all my strength to leave the ICU without balling or buckling under the weight of the sadness.
I don’t know how Dave will fare over the next several days. I pray for a full recovery.
So this holiday season, please have a virtual celebration with your family. Stay home. Social distance. If you must go out for necessities, wear a mask and wash your hands. Avoid areas where people linger for extended periods.
Stay healthy. Stay Safe.
Remember Dave. He could be your brother, son, dad, or grandfather.
Your comfort isn’t worth his life.
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Until next time my people.