DULUTH, Minn. – Dylan Wyatt, a doctor who grew up in Springfield, Mo, was an emergency medicine resident at New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn, New York.
You can read about the conversation here: N.Y. doctor from Springfield talks about fighting COVID-19 on the front lines
On Oct. 16, KOLR10 checked in with him. To no surprise, a lot has changed since we last spoke.
For starters, Wyatt moved to Duluth, Minnesota, three months ago.
“It was something that my fiancé and I always had wanted to do,” Wyatt said. “New York was a wonderful place. I met a lot of great people, had wonderful experiences and from a training experience, [my fiancé and I] couldn’t have asked for a better place. But, we are Midwesterners at heart and wanted to come to a place that was a little more familiar to us and closer to family.”
Wyatt and Jenna, his fiancé, planned on coming to Minnesota long before COVID-19. But, Wyatt says he’d be lying if the pandemic wasn’t part of the reason for the move.
“It’s hard to distance properly in New York,” Wyatt said. “It’s hard to keep the space you need just by a function of the population density. To me, wanting to be able to do everything that I could to help prevent the spread, I felt like I needed to be in a place where I could be more comfortable with the distance that I could have.”
Working on the front lines in New York was challenging, too.
“It was mentally and emotionally exhausting to be out there,” Wyatt said.
Wyatt says he thinks about what happened in New York every day and adds that he’ll never be able to forget it. When asked about what he remembers most from Brooklyn, he mentioned three things: The community’s outpouring of support, the comradery of healthcare workers that came together, and death.
“There were so many people that died so quickly and so horribly,” Wyatt said. “They died alone, without family members around them, and they suffered until the end. We did everything we could to help them, but this disease is horrible. It is something that is pushing people, pushing medical systems to the limit. It, unfortunately, overwhelms a lot of the people who aren’t affected by it.”
In Duluth, Wyatt works as an emergency medicine physician at St. Luke’s Hospital. He works eight-hour shifts – sometimes day shifts and vice versa. Wyatt says things are “tenuous” and that St. Luke’s was prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s a breath of fresh air working here,” Wyatt said. “I needed a bit of rest. I have been most struck by how people here are very conscientious. They know that they need to help keep their community safe. The sentiment was there in New York, but it’s hard. It’s hard to do proper distancing in New York City. I mean, people are stacked end to end.”
As his situation becomes calmer, Wyatt says he’s worried about the COVID-19 fatigue he sees in the community.
“It’s something that we can’t allow to happen,” Wyatt said. “A small group of people that are exhausted from wearing their masks or are defiant from wearing their masks can rapidly lead to an overwhelming community spread that could completely overwhelm community health systems.”
Wyatt’s new employer is managing COVID-19 patients well. He says he’s seen a lot more patients develop heart issues in Duluth than in Brooklyn.
“That’s odd,” Wyatt said. “There are lots of substrains of the virus, so it’s a possibility that our local subtype is just a different kind. It’s different, and it worries me that if in a sick person those are the symptoms, how different will those be in the healthy people? The people who are spreading in the community? May that not necessarily line up with the traditional notion of the symptoms COVID has.”
With case numbers going up, school back in session and the winter on its way, Wyatt says now is the time to “tighten up the belt and buckle down to keep everybody safe.”
That advice extends to Springfield, MO – where he went to middle school and high school.
“I still have friends, loved ones in the Springfield area, and I’ve been watching with, I’ll be honest, horror,” Wyatt said. “The hospitals are all overwhelmed already, and things haven’t peaked yet there. It will get worse, and that scares me, honestly.”
As Greene County’s COVID-19 case count continues to rise, Wyatt has a promising message for Springfield healthcare workers: It gets better.
“Ignore the vocal minority and know that people appreciate you,” Wyatt said. “You’re doing an incredible job.”
Wyatt asks that people take the virus seriously, meaning be careful, look out for each other, adhere to social distancing and wear a mask.
“I know it’s uncomfortable,” Wyatt said. “I wore it for 12 hours a day for months when I was working in the COVID units. But I can also tell you that it works. It saves lives. We instituted the masks in the span of quarantine in New York. The numbers dropped precipitously. If we don’t do that, people are going to die. A lot of people are going to die and it’s preventable.”