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Archive Anesthesia 2020

Critical Care at the Epicenter of COVID-19

Q&A with Sean Garvin, MD, anesthesiologist on the frontlines of the pandemic response.

Sean Garvin, MD,

How did the coronavirus impact your facility?
We planned to handle an overflow of non-infected ICU patients from other hospitals so they could handle the surge of infected patients. But it was clear that wouldn’t be enough. We then increased our capacity by converting our main hospital’s ASC into a 16-bed ICU within 48 hours. While we filled that makeshift ICU with COVID-19 patients from our partner hospital, we increased capacity by 16 more ICU beds. It was done on the fly and involved staff at every level.

What was it like to work in the epicenter of the pandemic?
It was a full team commitment to create an ICU in our ambulatory surgery floor. Logistically, there were many challenges, but the hospital harnessed the resources needed to create a fully functioning ICU in a few days. There was a lot of uncertainty, but staff was dedicated to the task and collaborated and supported each other every step of the way. Personally, it was stressful but rewarding. I chose to be away from my family to minimize their exposure. This allowed me to fully focus on ICU patient care.

How did you connect family members with hospitalized loved ones?
We set up a system for them to FaceTime into ICU rooms. Even if patients weren’t communicative, family could still speak to them. It was extremely gratifying to see a patient who wasn’t doing well begin to recover and talk with family for the first time. Seeing these interactions was quite moving.

Is there a single moment that stands out for you more than others?
A younger patient wasn’t doing well when he came in. We struggled to get him to wake up and get his lungs working. Once we managed his lung infections and extubated him, he was able to go home. We cheered him on when he left, which was emotional. When he got home, he had to climb 16 steps to get into his house. He insisted on walking those steps himself — and he did. It exemplified the determination of individuals we were caring for. These types of successes made us push even harder for some patients who I didn’t think were going to make it. Many did and are on their way to recovery right now.

What do you hope comes out of the pandemic for Anesthesia?
I hope it serves as a reminder of the many skills we bring to the table. We can scale up, provide care outside of our day to day and do it well. We can handle a crisis, make critical decisions and handle anything thrown our way with poise and calm. You need these skills to keep patients alive during a pandemic. OSM

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