What happened when I left New York at the height of COVID - 19 pandemic?

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What happened when I left New York at the height of COVID - 19 pandemic?

Sixteen months ago, at the height of the COVID - 19 pandemic in New York City, Dr. Rebecca Martin was one of thousands of out-of-state doctors and nurses who came to help the city battle what was then a new disease That spring, the Pulmonologist from Brooklyn spoke to TIME about her 96 hour stint at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Arkansas. Martin, 45, wondered at the time how her own hospital, Baxter Regional Medical Center in northern Arkansas, would handle COVID - 19 if it came? In July, she got an answer when rising infections made the state into one of the worst virus hotspots in the nation.

When I flew to Arkansas at the height of the Pandemic in April 2020, it was my first time practicing medicine outside of my home state of New York City. Before I left to battle a strange disease in the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, I said goodbye to my husband and four young children, making sure to leave them the passwords to our family financial accounts if I didn't come back. As a pulmonologist, I suddenly had one of the country's most important occupations. And we couldn't sit around while watching COVID-19 kill more people, while our fellow medical workers begged for help.

During the 10 days I spent volunteering at Wyckoff, patients were packed by the emergency room so tightly that it was difficult to pass between rounds. There weren't enough sedatives to go around, so patients would sometimes wake up prematurely and pull air tubes out of their throats. There has never been a scenario in which that nightmare wouldn't follow me home. Today's intensive care unit is flooded with mostly unvaccinated and young patients on ventilators. Several nurses retired early or quit care, leaving an overwhelmed staff to deal with the constant barrage of patients. Stretchers line hallways. We had to create a mini ICU in the other wing of the hospital to deal with the influx. In the chaos, sometimes we don't know which patient in which room lives. Sometimes we send patients home and they come back sicker the next day. More than a year later, people dying from COVID - 19 are returning to saying goodbye to their loved ones through iPads, while in isolation in dark rooms.

It's easy to leave Canada and still be here. As COVID - 19 cases dwindled and vaccinations ramped up nationwide, there was hope that the pandemic could end. We thought we had made it through the hard part. We became comfortable from the sensational. We started patting ourselves on the back, thinking, 'Yeah, we did it! It was a false sense of security. It was June 1, and I had nine new covid - 19 consults on one day. I haven't seen this in months. By mid-July, the hospital re opened its COVID - 19 ward. There are ten times more cases than there were a month ago, largely due to the Delta variant and high vaccination rates in the state.

It's exhausting and frustrating, because this time it is preventable. It's easy and quick to get vaccinated. I don't harbor resentment towards those unwilling to get the shots, but I do. I wished people would reconsider. Now we're all back to asking, How long will this last? Will there be another one with a different strain? It feels like it should be over. Aber it is here in Arkansas worse than it ever was and now we're doing less to combat its spread than we’ve done before.