“This is dispatch. How can I help you?” “Patient is Covid-19 positive.” “I had conversations with people from when this was first starting. And you know, I was telling people like, ‘I think it’s just the flu. I think everyone’s full of shit,’ you know, kind of like, all right, like, no big deal, you know? Like, it’s another thing.” “Code 1 for possible Covid.” “Well, I’ve been in E.M.S. over 20 years. I knew coming into it that there would be tragedies, there’s a possibility of an epidemic, pandemic. But I honestly never thought we would see days like this.” “Call volume is much higher. A lot of people are a lot more sick than we normally deal with. The hardest role is talking people through these emergencies. We’re kind of making these big decisions now. Are we staying home and potentially letting them die at home? Or are we taking them in and they’re dying by themselves? It’s kind of terrible that you’re put in that position. But it’s what the reality is now.” [patient coughing] “Again.” “[coughing] Now.” “All right, it’s OK.” [coughing] “All right, your lung sounds are a little diminished. But your oxygen saturation is low. I’m going to put you on oxygen, OK? Ma’am, would you be willing to go to the hospital? You need continuous oxygen, and I, and we can’t provide that for you right now.” “When the paramedics showed up in my house, that’s when it was like, hey, 3,000 more people got infected. Hey, 500 people just died last night.” “Everything you would hear on the news and social media about the hospitals being at capacity and ready to explode, it was true.” “I like to make calculated decisions. And to think of going to a room where the doctors are going to tell me, ‘You’re most likely going to die.’ That was ridiculously frightening, yeah.” “Yes, ma’am.” “Sometimes we’re put into a difficult situation, where you feel that a patient needs to go to the hospital. And you try to give them worst-case scenario. You try to give them best-case scenario. And they still, they’re hesitant to go.” “I can’t get oxygen, I can’t get air, and I’m trying to make all of these decisions. And I told them, ‘Hold on. Let me talk to my brother. I need another brain.’” “Hmm.” Medic: “She’s going to go, Dr. Spalding.” “I just hope I don’t have to be there long. I’m just so grateful to God that I’m still here.” “I tested positive. First six days were rough, fevers on and off. It was difficult even just to get out of bed. It’s scary. You look at a lot of the people in the I.C.U.s, and a lot of them are a lot younger than me and in a lot better shape than me.” “And we’ve had a lot of E.M.S. workers pass away from this. Someone that worked with us, you know, was in the hospital on a ventilator, and it was devastating. And that’s when I think it got real, at least for me.” “You do have to have a discussion with these patients and with their families. As nicely as possible, you have to let them know the reality because they still have a choice. Why is she hesitant to go to the hospital to have this checked out?” “Oh.” “For being alone.” “That’s understandable.” “Have you ever had one of us come to the house before?” “I had you guys come last time, and they made me go to the hospital.” “OK, so we’re going to try to avoid that today.” “No, no, no hospital.” “Your body temperature is 97 degrees.” “Ninety-seven, there you go.” “That’s good.” “That’s very good, my dear.” “Mm-hmm. I’m cooking. I’m cooking.” “You’re cooking?” “Mm-hmm.” “Well, you’re not cooking, which is good.” [laughter] “Thank you.” “You’re welcome, very welcome. It’s a pleasure to see you, again.” “Very good seeing you, too.” “Hi, Duke.” “There you go. I think the most rewarding thing is actually being able to treat non-Covid patients at home, and give them peace of mind. But at the same time, you’re trying to keep everyone you can home. But you know when they need to go.” “She has been feeling like this for about two weeks, pretty much achy pains, fevers on and off. Then they checked — they did an X-ray to check to see if she has pneumonia.” “So as far as medical problems, only dementia?” “Yes, only that.” “So right now, her oxygen levels are 85 percent, which is not very good. You can’t really hang out in that range for too long. So what I’m going to do is I’m going to put her some oxygen right now.” “OK.” “What are your views as far as her going to the hospital?” “If we need to, we’ll take her the hospital.” “OK, all right. Any contact with anyone that’s been sick at all?” “Well, her caregiver.” “OK.” “Her patient had Covid. But she hasn’t been confirmed because she hasn’t been able to get a test.” “Gotcha, so we don’t know if there’s a potential that she —” “Yeah.” “— has it as well. But other than that, no one else has been around?” “No one else is showing any type of symptoms or anything like that, yeah.” “OK, not a problem.” “If it is Covid-related, I understand. But the thing is our concern is just not being able to visit her, not even to be near her because, you know, she’s —” [crying] “A lot of patients, they are asking me if they’re going to end up on a ventilator, asking me if they’re going to be OK. And sometimes you kind of lie to them to kind of comfort them. Everything’s going to be fine. And you kind of know that, that might not be the case.” “We’re all good? You want to say bye before we go?” [crying] “I love you, OK.” “In the moment, you don’t realize that you’re asking someone to make these — essentially — could be life-or-death decisions.” “You ready? One, two, three.” [crying] “Bye, Mommy. Love you.” [crying] “It’s OK.” “It’s hard thinking about it. And you just have to reflect on your own family and like, would I be OK with my parents going to a hospital and never seeing them again?” “This is such a big decision to make. To this day, I even question myself if I made the right choice, so … I feel like we abandoned her at the hospital. So we did the Zoom call. And then she just stopped breathing during the call. I wanted to at least hold her hand.” “More than 100,000 lives have been lost to the coronavirus nationwide.” “As the loss of life mounts, the C.D.C. director warns of a potential second wave.” “The whole pandemic definitely changed people’s thought process. Six months ago, I think if some people woke up in the morning and they were short of breath or if they had a really high fever, I don’t think they would hesitate at all to go see their doctor or go to a hospital.” “Being able to help families navigate those end-of-life decisions, I think that’s something big that we’ve done during this time.” “Thank you for all your hard work and your dedication for coming into work. And let’s get out there and do what we know how to do.” “Later down the line, it’s all going to hit us. The number of people that we’ve watched pass away, the number of people that we couldn’t save. And you kind of wrap it up, and put it in the box and save it for later. But it definitely takes a toll on you.”
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