On a recent holiday, while most people were enjoying the day off, our surgical team received an urgent call: we were needed at our local community hospital to operate on a patient with a life-threatening condition. For decades, we had been responding to calls like these regularly, but this time was different.
This was no ordinary call. This time, the patient also had a raging COVID-19 infection, putting us at risk of contracting COVID-19 ourselves.
But, as I donned cumbersome personal protective equipment and an N-95 mask in order to enter the COVID-19 unit to evaluate this patient, it highlighted the fact that many people had already put themselves at great risk to care for this patient — and now many more people were going to risk their lives to save this one man’s life.
It struck me that while local hospitals have not been the most newsworthy topic throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, dedicated professionals at local hospitals have been steadily, diligently and quietly serving the people of their communities.
From the moment he arrived at the emergency room with a full-blown COVID-19 infection, this patient was served by dozens of health-care workers, including doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, lab technicians, unit secretaries, room cleaners and so many others. Each was committed to this patient’s care, even at risk to their own health. Together, they ensured that this patient was thoroughly evaluated, stabilized and treated before he was admitted into our hospital.
Then, despite the risk, all of my surgical teammates showed up on short notice for the unscheduled operation. Everyone did their jobs, just the same as always. When the operation was completed and the patient was transferred to our intensive care unit, more doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and allied health professionals came together to provide the highest standard of care.
Here is what was so amazing. Not one person said, “Hey, wait a minute! I might get COVID and die.” No one said, “Not me — please call someone else.” No one said, “My safety comes first.” Everyone said, “Yes, I am here to help.”
This dedication and sacrificial care was not limited to this one patient. Local hospitals across the state, country and world have risen to the enormous task of caring for patients infected with COVID-19.
During this pandemic, I have seen many other hospital staff caring for extremely ill patients, working long hours without a break, while wearing the cumbersome personal protective equipment and N-95 masks, which limit movement and breathing. I have seen a hospital full of professionals and support staff committed to giving patients with contagious COVID-19 infections the same excellent care they had provided to countless patients prior to this pandemic.
Over the past eight months, much of the focus has been on politicians, controversial policies and finger-pointing. But amid all the confusion, chaos and complaining, there are many dedicated people, quietly working in local hospitals and health care facilities, risking their lives for the sake of others — people who are trained, ready and very willing to try to save your life, even if you have been infected with COVID-19. I am thankful and proud to work among them every single day.
Dr. Andrew Oishi is a general surgeon at Kuakini Medical Center.