The idea to mobilize all of the anesthesiology resources that we had on hand to help the COVID-19 efforts in New York City came to us early on, especially as things escalated in the area and as our elective case volumes went down. As a leading provider of inpatient healthcare services in our country, we knew that there was something we could — and needed — to do.
Many of us, including myself, have logistical and clinical experience managing mass casualty situations in Iraq and Afghanistan and managing natural disasters and hurricanes, including evacuating critically ill and injured patients during Hurricane Katrina, among many other crises. If you put all that experience in a bowl and mix it up, what you have is a tangible recipe to offer support and resources to a community in need.
So, to that end, we talked to a few folks, and within 48 hours, I had myself and three CRNAs from Texas on the ground in New York to help out in any way we could. The next day at 6 a.m., we left our hotel, and by 7 a.m., we were providing care at Mount Sinai Brooklyn Hospital.
Facing Ground Zero
What is it like on ground zero of COVID-19?
When you go into the hospital, you don your mask before you go inside, because everyone has the disease. It's everywhere. You might as well assume, and rightly so, that everyone in the hospital is COVID-positive. When you walk into the emergency department, there are beds everywhere throughout the hall — so many that you can barely move around to get to the patients.
Before my first day was over, I found myself crawling over COVID patients on their beds to get to the ventilators of other COVID patients to make adjustments. I managed airways and ventilators for the ICU patient overflow in the emergency department. The CRNAs who came with me managed the patient ventilators and care in the ICUs, put in central lines, intubated patients. And in these hospitals, particularly in Brooklyn and Queens, they’re doing one of those things every 20 minutes. They’re either running a code, intubating a patient or putting a central line in, and they do that for 12 or 14 hours. It's exhausting, and then you know you're going to do it again the next day.
I’m sure I speak for many clinicians when I say that when you leave the hospital, you're tired, but you feel so good about what you did.
By the end of the second day, we had a day shift and a night shift in Brooklyn. By the next day, we had a day shift and a night shift going in Queens. Today, I'll process an additional 10 paid volunteers to come up here and do this work. And we have 10 to 15 in our pipeline to be here every day. Each day, more and more clinicians answer the call to serve wherever and however they can, and I fully anticipate by the time we hit the anticipated apex of the crisis in New York, we'll have more than 200 Envision providers here.
We're making a significant difference in the care given in New York City. However, we understand that this is only a battle in the war. Once we hit the apex in New York, we're going to see this type of strain on resources happen in other metropolitan cities.
States like New Jersey are already feeling this strain. As other places begin to land on the uphill side of the curve, we fully anticipate remobilizing and going city to city until this is eradicated.
In This Together
I couldn't be prouder of our company and of the clinicians and non-clinicians we work with every day. I couldn't be prouder to be a physician. I will tell you, there is nothing that will make you understand the joy of your career until you've had one of those exhausting days — here in a place that is literally crippled with this disease — and when you walk out of the hospital, an entire metropolitan city is on the stoops of their porches, clapping, blowing air horns, ringing bells, to celebrate your shift change.
I'm proud to be serving where I’m needed right now in New York City and proud to be part of this company. I encourage everyone to take a close look at what we're doing, who we are and how we can each help America through this.