Dr. Arghavan Salles
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Dr. Arghavan Salles is a surgeon and scholar in residence at Stanford University. She is currently on the frontlines treating patients who are combating the COVID-19 virus. In a series of tweets, she shared her thoughts on her recent experiences. The text of those tweets is copied below:[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
Dr. Salles’ Story:
I don’t know how many times I’ve called to tell someone their loved one has died. I had to do it again last night. We had 3 code blues and 2 deaths in 1 night. Of the five patients I’ve personally been responsible for in the past two nights, two have come so close to dying that we called a code blue. That means 40% of my patients have coded. Never in my life has anything close to that happened.
There was one “terminal extubation” (removing the breathing tube with a plan to not put it back in, essentially letting a patient die) during the day, and there is another one planned for tomorrow. This is now routine.
Many have been watching what’s happening to healthcare workers, and my good friend Dr. Jessi Gold has written quite a bit about the mental health consequences of facing the daily onslaught of death and dying. It still didn’t really hit me until I came here.
The people who have been in NYC since the beginning of this, and those who work in Lombardy, Italy, and in Wuhan, China have faced loss for weeks to months. Not only do we not know when this will end, but it is likely that after it fades, it will come back in a second wave. Imagine being traumatized, trying your best to survive it, knowing that even if you do survive it, you’ll be asked to survive a second round. This is starting to feel like a boxing match we never signed up for.
I am lucky. I’m just a visitor here. I have the privilege to observe and learn and hopefully help, knowing I will be able to walk away. But what about those who can’t walk away? Social distancing is starting to work. But for healthcare workers, the ongoing devastation is very real. What is our long term plan? Can we maintain this level of volunteerism for months, so that those who live in hot zones can have a respite now and then?
I am very worried about the people I’m working with. I’m worried about the horrible things they have had to witness and the lack of time they have had to process it. We are asking more of them than we should ask of anybody. It may be especially hard for those who are now working in specialties they are not used to, having to provide care they are not familiar with. They are all doing their best, but inevitably mistakes will be made, and they will likely blame themselves. How do we best support them?
We need a plan. A concrete plan that involves humane schedules, creating support groups, providing individual counseling, and acknowledging, as Dr. Jessi Gold and I have argued, that healthcare workers are human, too. So tell me, what’s in your plan?[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][/vc_column][/vc_row]