IN HARM’S WAY

As countries ease restrictions on public life, health care workers around the world continue to risk their lives — and those of their families — to fight the coronavirus pandemic. Despite their stoic selfies, they feel scared, grief-stricken, guilty they can’t do more. In submissions and interviews, they reflect on what they have witnessed, the decisions they have made and how the pandemic has changed them. The Times will continue adding the stories of frontline health care workers. You can submit yours here.

  • Stephanie Benjamin, E.R. Doctor
  • San Diego

Low oxygen level, fever and confusion. I intubate the patient not long after she arrives at the emergency department. I remind myself, “She’s healthy, young, and female — the odds are in her favor.” (And mine, if I get sick, too.)

Hours later I hear, “She’s coding!” followed by the rhythmic thud of CPR. I lead the code. Four minutes: no pulse. Compressions continue. Rounds of epinephrine are given. Eight minutes: no pulse. We work together to save this patient, this woman, this mother, this human being. Ten minutes: no pulse.

I start tearing up and berate myself. This is my room, my team. Pull it together! Sixteen minutes: no pulse. I announce, “At 20 minutes, if nothing changes, I’ll pronounce her time of death.” Eighteen minutes: She has a pulse!

I slip into a nearby office. My N95 mask starts choking me; I rip it off and sob on the floor. Yes, we got her back, but she’s already died once. Her odds of surviving Covid-19 are dismal now. I dry my eyes, don my mask, and head back to the emergency department.

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