U.S. Medical Professionals Describe COVID-19 Experiences and Test New Treatments
California-based Dr. Marvin Urbina, MD, is a general medical doctor who works at four different medical facilities in Fontana, West Covina, La Puente, and Montclair.
Urbina has diagnosed six patients, and two have died within the last week. Although the private medical facilities he works at are not very busy, they are still receiving COVID-19 patients, he says.
As of April 17, there are a total of 709,193 cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and 37,135 deaths in the U.S. Medical professions have been working tirelessly across the country to help save the lives of those affected by the virus.
“My last patient, two of them had no symptoms, and both were seniors,” Urbina told Scriberr News. “No symptoms but they both passed out, then that was when they were taken to the hospital, and got diagnosed with COVID-19.”
Most of his patients he has known for years. Now, he’s adjusted to conducting telemedicine appointments to follow-up.
Urbina explains that the six of his patients, aged 20 to 80 years old, experienced varying symptoms and are at different stages of the virus. One symptom they all have in common, however, is a fever over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Some of the geriatric patients have underlying conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, or chronic bronchitis.
Urbina has been treating his patients who have two or more symptoms for the first five days with Zithromax, a broad spectrum antibiotic that can be used to treat respiratory infections. Then, he prescribes hydroxychloroquine, also known by the brand name Plaquenil, twice a day for seven days.
Plaquenil is an anti-malarial drug that is used to treat malaria, lupus, and arthritis. It was approved by the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use on March 28.
Nearly 50 percent of Urbina’s patients have fully recovered from the virus, but two of his patients have passed away while one has shown no improvement, Urbina explained.
President Trump has faced backlash for positively commenting on hydroxychloroquine during COVID-19 White House briefings, and the drug is currently undergoing clinical trials around the world. Because of this, the demand for the drug has skyrocketed–making it more difficult for medical teams to prescribe them.
Carlos Guirola, a gastrointestinal technician, was transferred to the emergency room as a runner at the Dignity Health St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach, because the medical center shifted its focus to treating COVID-19 patients.
Guirola is one of the first employees to come in contact with new patients walking into the emergency room every day.
“I haven’t had the experience treating the COVID-19 patients, but since I see them coming through the ER entrance, we never know if we will see them come back out those doors again,” Guriola told Scriberr News.
Overwhelming, overrun, and hectic is how Guirola would describe the hospital right now, he explained.
“Last week in just one 12 hour shift, we had at least seven patients die at the hospital. We don’t have room in the morgue, so we have rented a refrigerated trailer to act as a makeshift morgue,” Guirola said.
The medical facility is supplied with a surplus of plastic protection equipment (PPE) to protect its employees. The hospital also has a supply of disposable kitchen gowns in case they run out, Guirola explained.
Guirola is working near many infected patients and fears for his own life, he said. Many of his colleagues have contracted the virus.
“Unfortunately, we had a couple of my colleagues show up at the front door with symptoms of the virus. We have a couple in the ICU, we have a couple who are at home quarantined, and we have some on the COVID-19 floors,” Guirola said.
Erick Vasquez is a Respiratory Therapist at the Desert Regional Medical Center, a level 2 trauma hospital. Vasquez works in the Intensive Care Unit, Emergency Department, General Floor Care, and Pediatrics.
“The hospital was chaotic at first, but now everyone seems to get a grip on things. It is hectic due to so many changes from the CDC. There are new guidelines, new rules, and new equipment every day,” Vasquez told Scriberr News.
Vasquez has cared for patients ranging from 20 to 90 years old.
The patients are being treated as if they went into respiratory failure, he explained. For the most part, the medical center has been following the same procedures, just with added precautionary measures.
Patients who are in recovery are not allowed to leave the hospitals until they have cleared two different negative tests, Vasquez explained.
“I try to do the best I can for these people because at the end of the day if I were in their shoes, I’d wish they’d do everything in their power to help me get better,” Vasquez said.
Fortunately for this facility, there has been no shortage of PPE. The administration has been limiting the amount of PPE for each employee. An employee gets one N95 mask, surgical mask, and the face shield for one shift, Vasquez explained.
Yet, even with PPE, Vasquez’s 30-year-old colleague contracted the virus at the end of March. He is currently in critical condition.
“Am I worried about my life? Of course, but I understand that there’s only a certain amount of people that can do my job, and I am more than happy to put my life on the line for someone who is in need,” Vasquez said.
Experiences vary for each medical worker depending on the department and medical facility. But the common denominator is the continuous work schedule, day and night, to combat the spread of the deadly virus.
As people continue to contract the respiratory virus, it’s been a race to find working treatments.
There have been several doctors that have used hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19, and some small studies have found the medication to work positively in treating the virus. Comparatively, a recent study by the French medical company Medrxiv found the drug may not work for those with underlying medical conditions.
“These results do not support the use of HCQ (Hydroxychloroquine) in patients hospitalized for documented SARS-CoV-2-positive hypoxic pneumonia,” according to the study.
“Some patients who have compromised immune systems, Hydroxychloroquine may not work for them,” senior epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist at Pinnacle Performance, Dr. Wilson O. Iyokho told Scriberr News.
On April 11, Holy Name Medical Center in New Jersey announced the use of Pluristem’s cell-based therapy in the fight against COVID-19.
The medical center used a cocktail of drugs in IV form with Remdesivir and a combination of another drug or placebo. The combination seemed to work to heal a 69-year-old man who was in critical condition.
Remdesivir is currently in a clinical trial through Gilead Science.
“Wash your hands frequently, cover your mouth when coughing, self isolate if tested positive, seek treatment if symptoms persist, let everyone know that you’re positive so that they too can get tested and treated if positive,” Iyokho said.
The virus is spread through droplets generated when a person who is infected coughs or sneezes and can travel up to 20 feet. The virus can also be spread through saliva or nasal discharge.
That’s why face masks to cover the nose and mouth are inherently important, Iyokho explained.
“That is why it is highly recommended you cover your face or mouth, anytime you go outside because if a person coughed or sneezed before you got there, you can possibly contract the virus,” Iyokho said.
Iyokho is currently living in New York, and he believes the social distancing and stay-at-home measures have been working.
On April 18, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the hospitalization numbers have decreased to 16,000.
But people have begun to protest the quarantine measures due to the rising unemployment numbers. On April 17, hundreds of protesters gathered in Huntington Beach, California to demonstrate their disapproval of the stay-at-home orders.
Other protests have occurred in other states such as Washington, Minnesota, Virginia, Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, Utah, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.
“Easy freedom of assembly right now can cause a lot of problems. We may have a second wave of infections that we can’t handle,” Iyokho said.