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Inside a COVID Ward

Bryan William Jones:

I had a chance to spend some time in the COVID Medical Intensive Care Unit at the University of Utah Health Sciences last month to help illustrate the environment that our medical professionals are working in, taking care of people who have contracted COVID and are battling for their lives.  The patients who end up here are the sickest of the sick. By the time they show up in the MICU, their lung function is collapsing, and in many cases, other organ systems have been under attack by this novel coronavirus that has swept the globe in the worst global pandemic since the 1918 flu.

This project was a team effort by Stephen Dark @stephenpdark, Stace Hasegawa @nuwaif, Kathy Wilets @Kwilets, Alexandra Boulanger, Suzanne Winchester @suewin, Mitchell Sears @mitchsears, and the staff of the University of Utah MICU, to try and document the environment and tell the story of some of the people in this country who are working so, incredibly hard to fight this disease, and keep people alive who would otherwise die from this disease. Stephen Dark wrote an accompanying article for the visit, putting words to the images that help impart a sense of what the work environment is like for the nurses, technicians, therapists, physicians, housekeepers, and social workers who exhibit the incredible professionalism, and compassion to help keep people alive in this extraordinary time.

I first wrote about this pandemic back in March of 2020, a week after I shut my lab down and sent everyone home.  I had just gotten back from giving a talk back East, and while modeling disease spread through the country, realized it was endemic and I needed to act to protect the people in my lab.  At the time, I figured it would be bad, and I estimated that there might be 16,350 possible deaths in this country based upon a 1% infection rate… I had no idea that as of this writing, there would be over 440,000 Americans dead from this outbreak. Globally, there are over 2.2 million dead from this disease, and people are still not taking it seriously with people protesting at vaccination sites, and trying to break into hospitals in an attempt to prove that COVID is a hoax.  In addition to the safety and logistical issues associated with documenting hospitals fighting deadly diseases, severe penalties were levied or threatened by the previous White House administration against hospitals that leaked patient information, which has led to a dearth of journalist access to hospitals.

Everyone is tired.  Everyone is on the edge of burning out.  Everyone is scared, and many are lonely as a result of protocols to keep their loved ones safe.  I’ve worked in and around intensive care units for many years, and this was the first time that I’ve had medical care personnel break down in tears in routine conversation from the unrelenting stress of caring for others while trying to stay safe and keep their own families safe.

The photos are unsettling, and they should be.

(Hat tip: Om Malik)

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