‘I have nightmares’: New York doctor’s anguish as his patients die alone

A doctor treating critically ill coronavirus patients at the centre of the US outbreak says he fears he will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder after the “heartbreak” of seeing victims die alone.

Dr Steve Kassapidis, who is working seven days a week in the intensive care units at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital, told Sky News that he cannot sleep and “every day is etched in my memory” during the “endless” battle against COVID-19.

The US now has more deaths in the coronavirus pandemic than any other country, with the numbers exceeding more than 19,600 on Saturday.

Dr Steve Kassapidis is an ICU doctor in New York
Image:Dr Kassapidis said it ‘heartbreaking’ to see patients die alone

New York state alone has more cases of COVID-19 than any single country outside the US, at more than 180,000.

More than 8,600 people have now died in New York after contracting the virus.

Dr Kassapidis, who has previously described the “hell” at New York’s COVID-19 ground zero, said his colleagues would “break down sometimes” due to the “devastation” caused by the virus.

“When you’re intubating a co-worker, it gets to you,” he said.

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“When your co-worker’s family member is intubated and is dying, it gets to you.

Medical workers take in patients at a special coronavirus intake area at Maimonides Medical Center on April 11, 2020 in the Borough Park neighborhood of the Brooklyn borough of New York City. According to John Hopkins University, the global death toll from COVID-19 has now reached 100,000 worldwide with many experts believing that the number is actually higher
Image:More than 8,600 people have died in New York state after contracting COVID-19

“Unfortunately though, as physicians ,we’ve just got to suck it up and go to the next one.

“It’s heartbreaking, especially when you have patients who die alone. For instance, I had a patient who I’ve known for 25 years. A sweet, old gentleman.

“He died alone. His family couldn’t come and see him.

“I’ve witnessed times when families call looking for their loved ones and unfortunately they passed away a day or two before and this family member didn’t know. That’s a hard call to take.”

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Describing his own personal turmoil, Dr Kassapidis said: “I can’t sleep. Obviously I worry about my family, my daughter, my loved ones.

“I worry about having PTSD later on in life when it’s all over, hopefully, and I wake up from nightmares in the middle of the night.

“If you’re not really in it, you do not understand how bad it is.

“You can’t understand the full breadth of what’s going on. And it’s better off that they don’t.

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“The devastation of families is unthinkable. This wipes out families. Wipes out cities.

“Every day is etched in my memory. It’s heart-wrenching, it’s devastating.

“No one was ready for this. Everybody tries to throw politics into this.

“No politicians were ready for this, nobody across the world was ready for this.

“This has ripped through Europe, through China, through the US and it’s going to continue to do so and this is the worst enemy to have because you can’t see see them.

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“This is endless and it keeps coming. Comes in waves. You can’t let your guard down, can’t sleep.

“You’ve got to keep fighting because remember every time we don’t fight, every time we slip, somebody dies.”

After New York state reported on Saturday that another 783 coronavirus patients had died, governor Andrew Cuomo said the daily number of deaths is stabilising “but stabilising at a horrific rate”.

With authorities warning that the crisis in New York is far from over, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city’s school system – serving 1.1 million students – will remain closed for the rest of the academic year.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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