“Different Than Anything in My Career”

Amabir Mattewal, M.D., Medical Director of the ICU, Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center, Describes His Life Treating Patients During COVID-19

Working in the ICU I thought I had seen everything. However, when COVID-19 hit Houston extremely hard in mid-June, it was nothing like anything I have experienced in my career.

We were fortunate by that time to have learned from the experiences in New York City, Italy and Spain – especially about the need to intubate patients early and place them on mechanical ventilation. The drug Remdesivir and convalescent plasma treatments – where plasma was taken from survivors and given to patients – seemed to be showing promise and we figured out other ways to treat patients before placing them on a ventilator. However, there were those days when a patient would ask “Am I going to get better?” and I couldn’t give them a solid answer because I truly did not know. That was extremely frustrating. As physicians, we have learned over the years that if someone has a terminal illness you know how to break the news to them, but with this virus, many days I simply was searching for answers and the right thing to tell my patients.

As time goes on, the virus has really worn me down. At one point, I was seeing 25 COVID-positive patients a day. I get tired of continuously changing gowns and other personal protective equipment (PPE) and for the first time in my career I am feeling a lot of fear. Not in my ability to care for patients, but for my own health and well-being as well as the safety of my family. This is the first time in my life that I thought I needed to make a will – and I did. There are times when I worry that I, too, will end up in the ICU and get sick and die. I want my family to be taken care of in case that happens. It’s a really scary time.

My family also feels it. My older son calls me every now and then and asks how I am doing. I can’t hug him and his brother when I got home and that is hard. I am not only physically drained some days, but also mentally.

While the virus has taken an emotional toll on me, I think nurses have been more affected than any of us. A lot of nurses in our hospital volunteered to work in the COVID unit in the beginning and many ended up feeling isolated because they couldn’t see their families and friends. They are with
patients all day and some of those patients do not make it. It affects you on a very personal level. We all know we have a job to do taking care of these patients, and that is exactly what we have been doing.

The number of patients we are seeing has significantly declined since the summer, but recently we have seen another spike, which is a bit worrisome. I would encourage the public to remain vigilant, especially with the holiday season upon us. Wear a mask when you are out and around other people. Practice social distancing and good hand hygiene, and if you are sick, stay home. Try to avoid large gatherings and use common sense.

Do I think we will ever see anything like this ever again? I certainly hope not, but as we all know, life is unpredictable, so you never know. If so, we will still be here to take care of you

Comments

  1. Covid has also put stress on Respiratory Therapist that are working with nurses and Doctors with the critical Patients.

  2. Nothing but love and respect for you and all the doctors and nurses who have and are currently helping us through this Covid 19 period. Keep up the good work and God bless y’all..
    TEAM 4MAN

  3. I love that you expressed your views on Covid and how it personally affects you.
    Very grateful you are helping people get what they need to be comfortable.
    It’s scary and very hard to believe it has changed our daily living so much.
    Our world as we knew it has been turned upside down and nurses and doctors are our Angels here on earth!
    Bless you all!

  4. Thank you Dr. Mattewal for all that you do! Thank you for recognizing us nurses who care for your patients. Together we will Rise and Overcome!

  5. Your a great man who I had the honor to work with at st Luke’s. You saved my son few years ago with flu pneumonia.

  6. Thank you for your service .May God protect you and our Nurses, Respiratory Therapist and all who serve a s support us.

  7. Dr. Mattewal, I saw the fear, sadness, exhaustion, confusion, you and other doctors are going through. As well as other employees. You all are truly heroes taking chances with your life fighting this disease that’s like fighting a ghost. You don’t know
    who has it or when it will go away?

    Payer going up for all essential workers and in the medical field. Job well done

    Please be safe everyone and practice social distances, and clean your hands.

  8. Thank you very much for what you are doing. May God watch over and protect you, your family and all medical personnel.

  9. Wow! So dedicated. I appreciate you and your family’s sacrifice as well as many others on your team and in the world at large. Hang in there, you have not gone unnoticed or disregarded. Through adversity comes strength, and you my friend are a mighty warrior. Prayers to you, as “there is life in living, hope in healing and peace in your potential”.

    ~unknown author~

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