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What It's Like For Doctors On The Front Lines Of The Coronavirus Pandemic


Nurses, doctors, frontline medical workers and hospital support staff - they're all watching this outbreak unfold up close in real time. This hour on WEEKEND EDITION, we will be focusing on our medical health professionals - what they are experiencing and how they are coping - like Dr. Kimberly Brown. She works at one of the busiest hospitals in northern Mississippi. For our Outbreak Diaries project, she recorded a week of her thoughts during this crisis.

KIMBERLY BROWN: I'm dealing with a lot of anxiety. Right now, I feel really alone because very few people can kind of understand where my head is at. I'm just worried about getting sick. I'm worried about people around me getting sick. And my mind keeps going back to my colleagues in other parts of the country who are currently hospitalized in the ICU from COVID. And it scares me 'cause, I mean, I'm not that much younger than them.

It is March 21. I have a lot less anxiety today. We are pretty much testing any and everybody that wants it right now. There was a couple of people that I did test and then sent home for quarantine. And then there was one that I admitted, and I'm concerned about him. He's a older person, has some lung problems and just been coughing, fever - just didn't look well. Flu swab came back negative. And I was about to discharge him and then noticed his oxygen stats were just dropping. I just decided to keep him. And a couple hours later, he got a fever.

Now it is Sunday, March 22. I was talking to one of my partners, and we were thinking about purchasing PAPR hoods so God forbid we have to intubate anyone, we are completely protected. We have N95 masks, and we have gowns, gloves, everything. But some of the masks that we've been using aren't fitting my other partners. I think it's about to come in a wave, like, meaning if New York is getting it really bad, then the wave is about to hit the rest of the country as well.

A nurse came up to my partner today and asked her, you know, do we think that this is political? Like, is this real? And I really thought my partner was going to kill this nurse for asking this question. Like, this is not political. This is not anything but a true virus that is really killing people. I'm just sad to hear that people still think that this is something that's just made up to cause fear. If people want to figure out if it's real or not, they can come spend a shift or two in the ER, you know, helping take care of these ventilated patients with COVID-19.

It is Tuesday morning, March 24. The one thing that I have sincerely seen with my own two eyes is how broken our health care system is and how unfair that it is. It makes no sense that we are the richest country on the planet, and we don't have enough equipment to protect physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, PAs that are caring for these patients, that we are - have to ask for donations. It's sad that it tooks (ph) a worldwide pandemic to really highlight the issues for other people that really didn't know what the true problem was.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That was Dr. Kimberly Brown from DeSoto County in Mississippi.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.