"I am working in New York City as a Neurosurgery Resident at Mount Sinai Hospital. Around early March, the pandemic began sweeping through NYC, and our hospital system began making drastic changes to prepare. Many physicians were pulled into different roles than our normal positions. I went from operating every day as a neurosurgery resident to acting in a neurocritical care fellow role running the Neurological Intensive Care Unit.
We began seeing more and more COVID-19 positive patients, especially patients with the virus whose initial presenting symptoms was a stroke. Very quickly, our entire Neurological ICU was filled with COVID patients and we had to open a separate ICU for patients who had not tested positive for COVID or had a test pending. By late April, we had over 2,200 COVID-positive patients in our hospital system, with over 500 of those being ICU patients, meaning they were the most critically ill. I was greatly impressed by the way all of the medical team at Mount Sinai Hospital went above and beyond to care for patients, from physicians, nurses, and PAs to the radiology techs, janitorial staff, and transport teams. We also benefited from some amazing donations of personal protective equipment so we always had enough to carry out our jobs as safely as possible.
It was an incredibly busy time for me: as neurosurgery residents, we are used to long and grueling hours, often working over 100 hours a week due to the amount of time we spend in the operating room. This was different — while still working those long hours, we were carrying out tasks that we were not used to, such as managing ventilators and caring for patients with respiratory failure/respiratory distress syndrome. These are things that we have learned about and may have done at points in our career, but as neurosurgeons we don’t typically manage them primarily. All of this was occurring with the ever-present risk of becoming infected ourselves given our chronic exposure to COVID-positive patients, which only increased the difficulty of the situation. Overall, serving as a physician in NYC during this pandemic has been a harrowing but pivotal moment in my career. While we weren't able to save everyone, we did help many patients beat the virus and return home to their families, which at the end of the day means the most to me.
I know that things here in NYC have been much much worse than other places, but no city or town is immune to the effects of COVID. As different states start to open back up, it will be very important for everyone to exercise precautions like wearing a mask anytime they are out of the house to help minimize the spread. Ideally, a vaccine will become available this year and we can finally start to truly move on. Best wishes and good health to everyone at SCDS."