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N.Y. doctor from Springfield talks about fighting COVID-19 on the front lines

Coronavirus

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Dylan Wyatt is an emergency medicine resident at NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn, New York. Wyatt, fighting COVID-19 on the frontlines, has deep ties to the state of Missouri.

Wyatt lived in Springfield for seven years. He went to Springfield Lutheran Middle School and Springfield Catholic High School. Wyatt also spent six years in Kansas City, where he went to the University of Missouri-Kansas City for their six-year B.A./M.D. program.

In terms of the Brooklyn and New York Wyatt was accustomed to before the pandemic, he says this is a surreal time.

“It really feels like something out of a movie,” Wyatt said. “At work you’re sort of just in the zone. But, out of work, walking to and from, there’s no one around. There’s just constant ambulance sirens.”

In the hospital, Wyatt says his work is incredibly demanding. Patients are very sick, and they are sick for a long time – longer than a lot of diseases, in most cases, viral ones.

“That becomes very taxing,” Wyatt said. “And, it has really pushed the healthcare system to its limit. There’s been a lot of unique challenges from this.”

The first challenge he mentions is personal safety, as N95 masks have become difficult to find. Another challenge is battling fatigue when constantly seeing patients who he feels like he’s not going to be able to save.

“Family members, who were looking at these previously healthy older members of their family and saying ‘oh my gosh, how did we get to this from where we were?’ Seeing that day in and day out, over and over again it takes a toll.”

Specifically, a mental toll. Yesterday, a top New York City emergency room doctor died by suicide after treating COVID-19 patients. Wyatt didn’t know Dr. Lorna Breen, but he tries to help his coworkers deal with the psychological effects of treating this pandemic.

“As I try and help some of my younger residents understand, sometimes you have to shift what your goalposts are,” Wyatt said. “We get into a pattern where we think of success as making sure that our patient lives, they have to live, and if they don’t that’s a failure.”

With the virus’s high mortality rate, Wyatt believes that it’s an impossible goal. He says doctors should focus instead on making a patient and their family feel as comfortable as they can.

Another suggestion Wyatt has is taking a mental break when you clock out. That means staying off social media.

“It is important that you be able to disconnect,” Wyatt said. “Look, sometimes I just need to bury my nose in a book, I just need to watch a TV show that’s dumb and makes me laugh.”

Or, even look out the window at 7 P.M. in Brooklyn, which Wyatt calls Brooklyn’s “thanking healthcare workers hour.” Neighbors step out onto their porch and make noise in support of healthcare workers.

“That’s the sort of thing that gives you that little extra bit to get in, keep fighting,” Wyatt said.

Workers are not only given an emotional boost, sometimes they’re sent coffee and food.

“It makes all the difference,” Wyatt said. “A long shift to have 5, 10 minutes to get a good cup of coffee and a great slice of pizza. You know what? That goes a long way.”

Wyatt has been following along with Missouri’s COVID-19 data and compares it to the situation in New York.

“The most recent data that we can see shows that people in Missouri have been doing the right thing and that it’s working, but we need to keep up with that.”

Brooklyn and New York, on the other hand, were “unfortunately blindsided.”

“There wasn’t enough information for us to know what we’re facing,” Wyatt said.

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