‘This illness changed me’

A frontline ED and EMS physician recounts his experience with COVID-19

When the first COVID-19 case in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 21, 2020, most of us never would have imagined that one year later, we would be approaching 100 million global cases, 25 million U.S. cases, and almost 420,000 deaths in the US alone. We could not have predicted the pending public health emergency or how a tiny virus particle could become so politicized and cause divisiveness among us, bringing our economy and our world to a screeching halt.

Those of us who work in emergency medicine and emergency medical services were paying particularly close attention, as we tried to understand what exactly the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the associated COVID-19 illness were.

In Dallas, Texas, where I currently work as an emergency medicine and EMS physician, we were on high alert. After all, we were in the world’s spotlight in 2014 when Ebola first appeared in the U.S. in our front yard, and we didn’t want to be caught unprepared.

We scrambled to learn as much as we could, as fast as we could; change up processes; write new protocols and EMS alerts; and obtain personal protective equipment. We watched COVID-19 slowly spread across the U.S. in certain hotspots. Then, not unexpectedly, the first case appeared in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex on Mar. 9, 2020.

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