At the start of a new week at a medical centre in Houston, US – which is almost entirely dedicated to COVID-19 patients – one bed is sadly freed up, as doctors are unable to save a patient.
A team of 10 health workers, led by Dr Joseph Varon at the United Memorial Centre in the biggest city in Texas, cared for their patient, a 66-year-old American woman of Latino heritage.
When her oxygen levels suddenly fell dangerously, Varon ordered for her to be put on a ventilator. When it failed to restore the patient’s oxygen levels, medical staff ran to bring a second one just in case there was a problem with the first. She received shocks to her chest and injections of epinephrine, a hormone that stimulates the heart. The team tried three rounds of compressions before they were stopped by the doctor, who thanked them for their efforts.
“Every effort that you can imagine, everything that has been written, we did, and yet we were unsuccessful. The problem is with COVID, that’s what we’re seeing,” Dr Varon later told journalists from the Associated Press, who spent the day documenting the work of the centre.
Dr Varon also called the daughter of patient, expressing his condolences in both Spanish and English, saying they had done everything they could. The patient’s daughter lost both of her parents within just few weeks. The funeral of her father, who died of cancer, was attended by a hundred people. Few wore protective masks and at least 10 of the guests later developed COVID-19.
In the next room another patient, LaTanya Robinson, 51, is breathing with a machine providing high-flow oxygen through her nose. She cared for her adult son when he got the virus. Both she and her husband eventually caught it. Unlike members of her family, who developed relatively mild symptoms of COVID-19, Robinson went from feeling tired and struggling to move to hardly being able to breathe.
She was held in an urgent care centre for two days before being moved to United Memorial for treatment because the first available hospital beds were in cities at least a two-hour drive away.
Nearly 80% of the hospital beds in Texas are in use, and intensive care units are filling up in some of the state’s biggest cities, including San Antonio and Houston.
Dr Varon says he has barely had any time off in the past 100 days and only sleeps a few hours each night. Besides taking care of patients and obtaining hospital supplies, he is encouraging people to take the coronavirus seriously – and to wear a mask.