Dr. Kenneth Remy knows the toll the coronavirus pandemic has taken on U.S. and he’s confident things will get better in 2021 with an effectively distributed vaccine.
First, the country needs to get through the winter — and that means adhering to coronavirus-related precautions like wearing a mask, he said.
That’s why Remy, a researcher at Washington University in St. Louis and physician at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and St. Louis Children’s Hospital, made a video to stress the point. The video is meant to be a first-person view of what it’s like to be intubated while breathing too fast – “30, 40, 50 times a minute,” Remy said.
“You’re lying in that bed, looking up at me and others in the room,” he said. “It simulates, basically, what it looks like to breathe, and then, frankly, what it looks like for me to come at you with an endotracheal tube and a laryngoscope.”
He added: “For some patients, that’s all they see at the end of their life. They see that, they get some medicines and they never awaken again.”
COVID-19 cases have spiked nationwide, leading governors in many states to revisit restrictions heading into the holiday season. The U.S. has reported more than 12.7 million cases and over 262,000 deaths as of Wednesday night, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Remy said he’s taken care of more than 1,000 COVID-19 patients and intubated a little over 100.
In the video, which has been viewed on Twitter nearly 90,000 times, Remy says, “I hope that the last moments of your life don’t look like this, because this is what you’ll see at the end of your life if we don’t start wearing masks when we’re out in public. When we don’t practice social distancing. When we don’t wash our hands frequently.”
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The patient who died before Remy made the video at Missouri Baptist Medical Center, part of the BJC Collaborative that includes Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, was the 11th to die from COVID-19 complications that week, he said.
“I had just got off the phone with his wife,” he said.
Reaction to the video has been mostly positive, Remy said. He said colleagues have offered support.
“We are proud of Dr. Remy and all of our health care professionals working on the front lines,” Washington University School of Medicine said through a spokesperson.
Still, there’s been some pushback, he said. He’s heard the arguments against masks, and he’s listened to people who are exhausted with coronavirus-related restrictions. People thought things would be different by the summer and they didn’t, he said.
It’s up to the doctors to keep patients alive, Remy said.
“I would tell you that although it feels like it’s more uncomfortable to have to wear a mask out in public, I would venture to argue that it would be more uncomfortable to breathe 40 or 50 times a minute,” he said. “I know it’s more uncomfortable when I start performing invasive procedures on you, including putting a piece of plastic down your airway to help you breathe.”
The U.S. on Tuesday recorded its highest COVID-19 death total since May. The stress of pandemic has taken its toll over the months, with physicians, nurses and other frontline workers exhausted, Remy said.
People want a return to normal. That can only happen, he said, by following the right precautions.
“It’s easy to become complacent or fatigued and wear that mask a little lower than where it’s supposed to be,” he said. “Please raise that mask, for now. Please exercise distance and please wash your hands.”