A nurse at LAC + USC Medical Center wears a plastic bag as makeshift protective gear during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Timothy Jia)
Diamond Bar High School

Column: Healthcare workers fight COVID-19, a different kind of war

“Remember to be in your rooms by the time your father gets home,” my mother warned my sisters and I as she left for her nightly shift. My siblings quickly finished dinner, washed the dishes, and shut ourselves in our respective rooms by the time my father returned. That day I didn’t see my father once. Not one word was spoken between us.

That day, my dad slept in the garage clinging to a cheap, $10 sleeping bag. No air conditioning, rain seeping through the small cracks in the wall, cold seeping into his labored bones — all to quarantine himself from the rest of his family.

The first case of COVID-19 had just been reported to the hospital my father is working at. He had called us earlier that day to notify the family that his unit, 4B ICU, would be caring for COVID-19 patients. I was in a shock. It had only been a matter of time before the virus would spread from Wuhan to Los Angeles, however it was far quicker than what I could have expected. 

Just recently, the United States became the country with the highest number of cases, with cases in large cities such as New York and Los Angeles doubling each day, and a rising strain is placed on hospitals across the world. In my region alone, Los Angeles county, 16,435 confirmed cases have been reported as of April 23, 2020.

My father works as a nurse at LAC + USC Medical Center. He works in the Intensive Care Unit, which has transferred to solely treat and care for COVID-19 patients. With the cases exponentially rising and supplies and equipment diminishing at an equal rate, doctors and nurses are at risk of infection as well.

The USC medical instructors have taken the precaution to utilize the empty college dormitories to quarantine nurses and doctors working with COVID-19 patients. With a no visitors allowed policy, he, along with other medical workers, will be isolated from family for an indefinite amount of time. 

The patients are suffocating. They gasp for air, lungs struggling to breathe, and are overcome with fever. Ventilators run full-time to keep these patients alive. In serious cases such as these, blood along with other fluids fills the patient’s lungs, choking the patient. In the face of terror, our medical workers must fight the worst with supplies they have.

Whether it is repurposing other beds and rooms for isolation, isolating nurses and doctors to prevent spread, or utilizing makeshift equipment such as cutting plastic bags into isolation gowns, our medical workers are working around the clock to protect themselves while caring for each and every patient. 

To many frontline medical workers during this time, this pandemic is a terrifying period to work in. With worldwide mass consumption of medical supplies, hospitals are lacking and in dire need of disposable equipment.

These frontline workers are risking their lives in isolation units while frantically treating COVID-19 patients, fearful that they or other family and friends may end up in the same room. What they witness on a day-to-day basis is nothing that can be compared to the flu, an illness that COVID-19 has been compared with many times.

At this rate, the sheer volume of patients may overrun the LAC + USC Medical Center as it has done with other hospitals worldwide.

With LAC + USC being a top hospital in L.A. County, this is where the battle lies. Without the proper equipment, L.A., along with other large cities may face the terrifying possibility of turning away patients due to the lack of ventilators, rooms, or ICU beds. It is a worst case scenario, however, it has already happened in Italy, and other cities may not be far behind this outcome.

To support the hospitals I have started a GoFundMe to help supply face shields for frontline nurses and doctors. Please take the time to donate or share my page! Each dollar raised will be able to produce a face shield for a nurse and doctor. My friends and I are working to get these shields out as quickly as possible! Thank you.

A nurse at LAC + USC Medical Center wears a plastic bag as makeshift protective gear during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Timothy Jia)