A Letter from a Rivertowns Doctor working on the Front Lines of the COVID-19 Virus in New York City
In my hospital in New York City, many young and apparently otherwise healthy people (ages 30 to 50) are coming into the ER, struggling for breath and collapsing. One of our nurses wrapped eight corpses in his last shift, and seven of the people who died during that shift were between the ages of 30 and 60. Masks and other personal protective equipment are in short supply and are being reused extensively to reduce the risk of running out. Virus-filtering N95 masks are especially strictly rationed and limited to hospital personnel performing the highest risk procedures, while most of us are issued surgical masks (which physically cover your mouth and nose but don’t make a seal).
I have two spare N95 masks that I’ve been “saving for a rainy day,” and I’ve been wearing one of them for the last several days, while the other one lives in my pocket. My wonderful in-laws sent me new masks that arrived in the mail yesterday — better than the surgical masks but not quite as good as the N95 masks. These masks are a great blessing, as are my makeshift head-covering and a pair of goggles given to me by my good friend and colleague. My cherished goggles broke on Friday evening while I was gently adjusting them. Thank G-d they broke at the end of my shift, and thank G-d I have my old Locust goggles (with prescription lenses) by Revision Military, as well as tube of clear antimicrobial caulk (the caulk was left for me by the previous owners of my house) which I will use to seal up the air vents in the goggles.
I hear numerous cardiac arrest codes each day at the hospital. At this point, in New York City, someone dies of COVID-19 every 9.5 minutes. I am not stationed in “the hot zone” (the highest risk zone) of the hospital, but I always wear my “spaceman Donald Duck” gear as per my wife’s wise-ahead-of-her-time advice. (People good-naturedly laughed at the gear when I first wore it, but now they are adopting similar outfits for themselves.) After all, if it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck—but it might be a health care worker. I am meticulously decontaminating as much as is feasible.
Statistically speaking, it is much more likely that I will survive this pandemic than die in it. Countless men and women far better than me, in the United States Armed Forces, have faced (and continue to face) much greater danger.
I am doing all I can to survive while still fulfilling my duty—and at the same time, faced with my possible death, calling out to G-d. If I hadn’t been blessed with my religion and with the Chabad organization and community, I would not have been able to cope nearly as well. I thank G-d that I have lived a full and very meaningful life. I have been blessed with a very dear, wise and courageous, G-d-fearing wife who is beautiful inside and out and who is truly the love of my life. I have been blessed with a good and enthusiastic son, devoted parents and caring sister, truly generous and thoughtful in-laws, loving grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins, a life-affirming and wisdom-providing religion, an inspiring and uplifting religious community, true friends, amazing mentors, a great country founded by wise moral giants on good and beautiful principles (based to a large extent on the Hebrew Bible), and for a profession that has brought me great joy and meaning as well as the ability to take good care of my family—but which has also exposed me to danger that has pushed me to better myself, and to call out to G-d.
May G-d bless and protect you. May G-d let His countenance shine upon you and be gracious to you. May G-d turn His countenance toward you and grant you peace.
Signed by a physician, a resident of the rivertowns who wishes to remain anonymous.