Houston COVID-19 health care workers still experiencing long days

Tuesday, December 8, 2020
Houston COVID-19 workers still experiencing long days
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Two frontline workers explain how they power on despite 6 a.m. start times, 14-hour shifts, and mental and physical exhaustion.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Doctors and nurses on the frontlines have been battling the coronavirus for ten months now, working grueling, long days. The battle continues as COVID-19 hospitalizations are increasing across the country.

Dr. Faisal Masud, Medical Director for Critical Care at Houston Methodist, who has been working with COVID-19 patients since the beginning, said his day starts before dawn.

"It becomes actually a 14 to 16-hour day for us on a regular basis," he said.

Treating patients takes a lot of time and attention.

"These COVID-19 patients are staying there for 10 days, seven days, sometimes two weeks or even a month, so these are long-stay patients," he said.

While the job is rewarding, it's also taxing, from the long hours to the PPE. Part of his shift includes taking time for safety measures at the end of the day to ensure workers don't bring the virus home, Masud said.

"It is actually physically exhausting for my team members. You have to recognize you have to put all of these things on, take it down, you have to do all the things, which are very complicated and then you have to take care of other patients."

It's not just hard physically, but mentally as well.

SEE ALSO: These Houston-area hospitals are getting the COVID-19 vaccine first

"To lose patients like these, which were, like, walking around one month ago or two weeks ago, it takes an emotional toll on everybody, patients, families, all of us," said Dr. Masud.

Victoria Waterfield has been working as a nurse in the COVID-19 unit within the Highly Infectious Disease Unit at Houston Methodist since the beginning. She's seen triumph, and she's seen loss.

"You definitely remember all the names of the people you lost, but just knowing that at the end of the day you did everything that you could is really, you know, the easiest thing to keep in mind to help you get through that, and obviously having coping mechanisms and self-care is a huge thing," she said.

While it may be hard at times, neither Dr. Masud nor Victoria would have it any other way. Helping patients is where they want to be.

"I just love giving back. I think that's the biggest thing. To be able to go home at the end of the day and know, you know, I helped another person, even if it's just one other person, a little bit, definitely makes it worth it," said Waterfield.

It's those moments that make the 6 a.m. start, the 14-hour day and the exhaustion all worth it for people who have dedicated their lives to saving others.

"Getting them back to their family, seeing the smile on the patient, getting them off the ventilator, getting them walking," said Dr. Masud.

RELATED: Local and state leaders detail COVID-19 vaccine plan as first distributions start next week

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