The new SARS COV-2, or coronavirus, has killed millions of people worldwide, wreaking havoc that the world has never witnessed before. Despite modern technology, advanced medical science, and new inventions, a year has passed since the pandemic began, yet the world does not have a shot to the virus.
Of course, not everyone is dying. Catching the virus does not mean you are going to land up in an ICU.
The chief of critical care medicine, Michelle Ng Gong, of the Montefiore Health System, New York City, says, “There are many patients that are fine and that are at home, those who don’t need a hospital make up. I would dare say, in fact, the vast majority of people.”
Doctors as Gong see several dozens of young and old patients walking through the doors daily, and they are even getting a much better idea of the ones who are actually at risk of some severe disease.
The question is – are we safe?
Janet M. Shapiro, MD, believed that she had finally recovered from her mild Covid-19 disease and she could get back to work. However, as it turned out, the virus did not leave her body.
The director of ICU at the Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Saini, New York City, Shapiro shared her ordeal in the JAMA Cardiology. It gives us a bird-s eye view of how serious the Covid-19 pandemic is, and just how it has impacted the lives of frontline workers and healthcare providers daily.
Shapiro was treating patients when the pandemic just began. She tested positive after losing a sense of taste and smell. She also developed a fever with a cough. Upon proper diagnosis, she thought of all the patients she was caregiving.
Shapiro wrote, “As a physician, Covid-19 is the medical challenge of a lifetime and I needed to be in it. I had to turn over the daily management to trusted colleagues and still try to keep up with the constant information and decisions. It was frightening to know about the dangers of Covid-19 and so I checked my saturation, tried to sleep in a prone position, and hoped that I would not worsen.”
As soon as Shapiro was cleared for her work, she went back to her ICU duty. However, Covid-19 left a mark. It weakened her body in several ways. She could not work in tandem with her colleagues. For example, she had to visit the cardiology department to ensure her heart was not functioning to the optimum.
Shapiro further explained, “My physician suggested admission for telemetry monitoring, but I declined. I imagined what it would be like to be admitted to a telemetry floor, to hear the overhead pages for the rapid response team and medical code team that my team responds to, and wondering if that call was for me.”
When Shapiro was recovering at home, according to her narrative, she tried to help with caregiving as much as possible from a distance. Her spirit was boosted by the affection and good wishes that came from the citizens of New York City, which included the daily cheering for caregivers and healthcare providers at 7 PM. She was also flooded with positive messages. However, it was still very difficult to stay away from the action during the most testing time.
Finally, sometime later, Shapiro could return to work. This experience and covid-19 infection has changed her as a person and a healthcare provider.
Shapiro shares, “I experienced what it is to feel one’s body, the difficulty of a breath, as fast heartbeat, the vagueness of feeling unwell and the fear it brings. This is what patients experience daily. No one is safe from illness. Covid-19 reminded me of the miracle and fragility of a healthy body.”
Even as Shapiro was sharing her experience in an article, she had not recovered fully.
She concluded, “I still cannot taste my food. But I completed my stress echocardiogram, achieving 3 stages of the Bruce protocol, and I feel better than ever.”
Understand Who Is At A High Risk Of Covid-19 Complications
Covid-19 can affect anyone. However, certain risk factors increase the chances of serious diseases.
By far, age is the greatest factor. Data from different nations reveal that hospitalization due to Covid-19 and death rates were the highest in people over 60. Those statistics are borne out of what Dr. Gong has been witnessing in New York City on the ground. She says, “We’ve seen over and over again that our elderly patients are faring poorly.”
Besides, there are several health conditions, which increase risk. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention released recent data that shows diabetes as one of the leading factors for cardiovascular diseases. These two diseases are usually accompanied by obesity, which means overweight people have to be more vigilant, according to Daniel Griffin of ProHEALTH Care Associates.
As Covid-19 is a respiratory disease, people with lung diseases should be extra careful. According to the CDC, people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, and asthma are at high risk.
Finally, people who have had a transplant or patients who are immunocompromised may also be at an increased risk. Gong adds, “It’s particularly difficult with regards to being able to control the disease.”
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