- Craig Spencer MD MPH took to Twitter on Monday night to give people a glance into the daily life of an ER doctor in New York during the COVID-19 outbreak
- Spencer was the last America to be cured of Ebola in 2014 after he was deployed to Guéckédou, Guinea
- New York has become an epicenter for COVID-19 after spiking to over 20,000 cases accounting for half the country’s current cases
As COVID-19 cases continue to relentlessly pound New York hospitals, some have wondered what the doctors are seeing. Is it really as bad as some are making it out to be? Craig Spencer MD MPH decided to give Twitter users a glance into the daily life of an ER doctor in New York during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Experts are calling New York an epicenter for the COVID-19 outbreak. Currently, New York holds half of the country’s 46,000 confirmed cases. According to Spencer, many of the cases coming in were infected a week ago, adding to his point that it is too late to stop this virus. However, there is still hope to slow the spread.
Spencer is the Director of Global Health in Emergency Medicine at New York-Presbyterian-Columbia University Medical Center. In 2014, Spencer became the last American cured of Ebola. He caught the disease while deployed to Guéckédou, Guinea, near the epicenter of the outbreak to work as a physician in an Ebola treatment center with the organization Doctors Without Borders. Spencer spent six weeks in the epicenter before returning to America with the disease.
After spending three weeks in the hospital and his liver almost failing, with the help of an experimental drug and plasma donated by a patient who recovered from Ebola, Spencer was able to recover from the disease that claimed at least 11,300 lives. Needless to say, Spencer holds both knowledge and experience in this field, which is why you should listen when you hear Spencer say, “I survived Ebola. I fear COVID-19.”
On Sunday night, Spencer made a long series of tweets showing the darker side of being an ER doctor in New York right now. Not only does Spencer highlight the seriousness of this pandemic, but he also highlights another subject often looked over. The mental health of our health care workers. Spencer shares intimate details of life inside the ER and outside. From the constant fear of exposing himself to COVID-19 by simply removing his mask for a drink of water to his wife holding his toddler back who hasn’t seen him in days so he can shower before touching her. The series of tweets will hopefully act as a reminder of how serious this situation truly is.
Thank you everyone for your incredible messages of support and encouragement.♥️— Craig Spencer MD MPH (@Craig_A_Spencer) March 24, 2020
Many of you asked what it was like in the ER right now. I want to share a bit with you. Please RT:
A Day in the Life of an ER Doc – A Brief Dispatch from the #COVID19 Frontline:
Wake up at 6:30am. Priority is making a big pot of coffee for the whole day, because the place by the hospital is closed. The Starbucks too. It’s all closed.— Craig Spencer MD MPH (@Craig_A_Spencer) March 24, 2020
On the walk, it feels like Sunday. No one is out. Might be the freezing rain. Or it’s early. Regardless, that’s good.
Walk in for your 8am shift: Immediately struck by how the calm of the early morning city streets is immediately transformed. The bright fluorescent lights of the ER reflect off everyone’s protective goggles. There is a cacophony of coughing. You stop. Mask up. Walk in.— Craig Spencer MD MPH (@Craig_A_Spencer) March 24, 2020
You take signout from the previous team, but nearly every patient is the same, young & old:— Craig Spencer MD MPH (@Craig_A_Spencer) March 24, 2020
Cough, shortness of breath, fever.
They are really worried about one patient. Very short of breath, on the maximum amount of oxygen we can give, but still breathing fast.
You immediately assess this patient. It’s clear what this is, and what needs to happen. You have a long and honest discussion with the patient and family over the phone. It’s best to put her on life support now, before things get much worse. You’re getting set up for that, but…— Craig Spencer MD MPH (@Craig_A_Spencer) March 24, 2020
You’re notified of another really sick patient coming in. You rush over. They’re also extremely sick, vomiting. They need to be put on life support as well. You bring them back. Two patients, in rooms right next to each other, both getting a breathing tube. It’s not even 10am yet— Craig Spencer MD MPH (@Craig_A_Spencer) March 24, 2020
For the rest of your shift, nearly every hour, you get paged:— Craig Spencer MD MPH (@Craig_A_Spencer) March 24, 2020
Stat notification: Very sick patient, short of breath, fever. Oxygen 88%.
Stat notification: Low blood pressure, short of breath, low oxygen.
Stat notification: Low oxygen, can’t breath. Fever.
Sometime in the afternoon you recognize you haven’t drank any water. You’re afraid to take off the mask. It’s the only thing that protects you. Surely you can last a little longer – in West Africa during Ebola, you spent hours in a hot suit without water. One more patient…— Craig Spencer MD MPH (@Craig_A_Spencer) March 24, 2020
By late afternoon, you need to eat. Restaurant across the street is closed. Right, everything is closed. But thankfully the hospital cafeteria is open. You grab something, wash your hands (twice), cautiously take off your mask, & eat as fast as you can. Go back. Mask up. Walk in.— Craig Spencer MD MPH (@Craig_A_Spencer) March 24, 2020
Nearly everyone you see today is the same. We assume everyone is #COVIDー19. We wear gowns, goggles, and masks at every encounter. All day. It’s the only way to be safe. Where did all the heart attacks and appendicitis patients go? Its all COVID.— Craig Spencer MD MPH (@Craig_A_Spencer) March 24, 2020
When your shift ends, you sign out to the oncoming team. It’s all #COVIDー19. Over the past week, we’ve all learned the signs – low oxygen, lymphopenia, elevated D-dimer.— Craig Spencer MD MPH (@Craig_A_Spencer) March 24, 2020
You share concerns of friends throughout the city without PPE. Hospitals running out of ventilators.
Before you leave, you wipe EVERYTHING down. Your phone. Your badge. Your wallet. Your coffee mug. All of it. Drown it in bleach. Everything in a bag. Take no chances.— Craig Spencer MD MPH (@Craig_A_Spencer) March 24, 2020
Sure you got it all??? Wipe is down again. Can’t be too careful.
You walk out and take off your mask. You feel naked and exposed. It’s still raining, but you want to walk home. Feels safer than the subway or bus, plus you need to decompress.— Craig Spencer MD MPH (@Craig_A_Spencer) March 24, 2020
The streets are empty. This feels nothing like what is happening inside. Maybe people don’t know???
You get home. You strip in the hallway (it’s ok, your neighbors know what you do). Everything in a bag. Your wife tries to keep your toddler away, but she hasn’t seen you in days, so it’s really hard. Run to the shower. Rinse it all away. Never happier. Time for family.— Craig Spencer MD MPH (@Craig_A_Spencer) March 24, 2020
You reflect on the fact that it’s really hard to understand how bad this is – and how bad its going to be – if all you see are empty streets.— Craig Spencer MD MPH (@Craig_A_Spencer) March 24, 2020
Hospitals are nearing capacity. We are running out of ventilators. Ambulance sirens don’t stop.
Everyone we see today was infected a week ago, or more. The numbers will undoubtedly skyrocket overnight, as they have every night the past few days. More will come to the ER. More will be stat notifications. More will be put on a ventilator.— Craig Spencer MD MPH (@Craig_A_Spencer) March 24, 2020
We were too late to stop this virus. Full stop. But we can slow it’s spread. The virus can’t infect those it never meets. Stay inside. Social distancing is the only thing that will save us now. I don’t care as much about the economic impact as I do about our ability to save lives— Craig Spencer MD MPH (@Craig_A_Spencer) March 24, 2020
You might hear people saying it isn’t real. It is.— Craig Spencer MD MPH (@Craig_A_Spencer) March 24, 2020
You might hear people saying it isn’t bad. It is.
You might hear people saying it can’t take you down. It can.
I survived Ebola. I fear #COVIDー19.
Do your part. Stay home. Stay safe.
And every day I’ll come to work for you