‘They’re Coming in Sicker’: A Day in the Life of a New York City Doctor

A doctor at a hospital in Queens, New York, shared a video diary recorded Thursday, April 16, describing his workday and the struggles he and other health workers face while treating COVID-19 cases.

Dr. Matthew Bai is a physician at Mount Sinai Queens and recorded this vlog as an update to his previous diary filmed on Monday, March 30.

“The volume is down but they’re coming in sicker, so when they come in they can be to the extreme where they have no pulse already. Or they’re coming in breathing very fast and hypoxic with very low oxygen level, and cold and blue, some of them. And this seems to be the course of COVID-19 as this disease has been around in the world longer and longer,” Dr Bai said.

In contrast to his previous video, wherein he described a situation of more than 60 COVID-19 patients waiting for a bed, in Thursday’s footage, filmed three-and-a-half weeks later, Dr Bai showed the ER and noted that the relative emptiness was a “nice little reprieve,” however temporary.

“No patients in this hall at all. It is a beautiful sight to see,” said Dr Bai.

Though he said that the severity of new cases coming in requires even harder work, Dr Bai said he has time in the day to take a break longer than a few minutes now that the overall volume of patients is down.

“The sobering thing is that these patients are sometimes the younger patients, the ones you don’t expect to come in affected this severely by COVID-19. And those cases are especially emotionally taxing because they were previously healthy and had a family, maybe even beginning a new career, and all of a sudden this happens and everything changes in the blink of an eye. And it makes the whole staff very saddened when this happens. I mean you can tell when everyone’s mood just changes,” said Dr Bai, noting that the hospital does provide emotional and mental health support, including psychiatrists and a chaplain.

During Dr Bai’s shift on April 16 a patient was discharged — an event which lifted everyone’s spirits, he said. He also said someone distributed goodie bags with small tokens and an inspirational note, which he described as “very thoughtful” and “very well received.”

In his previous video, Dr Bai talked about how he and his wife agreed that she and their then-17-month-old daughter should leave their family apartment and separate from him in order to protect them from the potential spread of infection from his work at the hospital. Dr Bai says he only sees and talks to them via video calls.

“What keeps me going from day to day is seeing my family and seeing that they’re safe and seeing them happy,” he said of their nightly video calls. During this “bright spot” in his day, Dr Bai said he and his wife put their toddler to bed with a few stories.

“I really just can’t wait for all this to be over so I can be reunited with them and see them in person and give them a hug.”

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