The Corona-19 pandemic has affected each of us and I am no exception, both at home and at work.
In our personal life, my wife and I have never spent so much time at home unable to go out to eat or visit friends and family. Like so many others, this has meant lots of home food preparation! However, its also provided a reminder of how important our home is to us and its inspired us to do some long overdue renovations.
For 30 years I have been a partner in The Elmwood Company with an ongoing passion for the 18th C reproductions of English and American antiques made by The Kittinger Company in Buffalo, New York in the classic period of their work between 1937 and 1990. Staying at home has meant more time to visit with friends, online and by phone, to answer inquiries about the furniture. It has also provided me more time to appreciate my own collection of Kittinger. My wife and I are so fortunate to have a large collection of Kittinger pieces. This year I acquired a T444 roll top desk for our master bedroom. It has the most beautiful inlay including a Federal style American Eagle inlaid on the roll top itself. There is plenty of space inside including cubbies and drawers. Its perfect for correspondence and organizing monthly bills. And like every piece of Kittinger furniture the craftsmanship is beyond peer. I always say that 18th C antiques may be older, but they are not made with better craftsmanship than Kittinger.
The other side of my work life was also profoundly affected. As many of you know, I have been an emergency physician in Southern California for many years. In fact I am a board certified emergency physician at a regional hospital seeing almost 100,000 emergency patients every year. We are a Level II trauma center in San Bernardino County and have actually seen and admitted more COVID-19 positive patients than any other hospital in the county! So for our region you could say we have been at the center of the pandemic.
My first reaction to the situation was a deep sense of duty as a physician that the problem must be faced and dealt with, no matter the consequences to myself. No matter the risk I was determined to remain at work and see it through. I was also very concerned about my team of nurses and support staff. For myself it was also a sense of educated tempered concern. I am 70 years old. People of that age in my area were ordered to remain home and quarantine due to a heightened concern that this age group was likely at high risk of infection and severe illness or death. The initial projections from CDC were that more than 2 million Americans might die in the pandemic and that the mortality rate of affected sick patients might be as high as 4-5%.
In the early days of the pandemic we developed a plan to deal with the risk and treat the patients. Our department separated an area of about 20 beds dedicated to respiratory high risk patients. I can recall driving to work with an uncomfortable feeling of risk I had never felt before. I had never presented to work, ever in the past, thinking I could become seriously ill or even lose my life as a result! We are extremely careful and wear PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) to see each patient, including gown, mask, head cover and gloves. Some patients present in acute respiratory distress with extremely low oxygen saturations and require endotracheal intubation and ventilator management. For those patients we wear protective equipment with self contained circulated air, called a PAPR (Powered Air Purifying Respirator). We look like astronauts wearing them. The respirator is loud and its difficult to hear what other team members are saying. So, we have to lay out an exacting plan for the procedure before entering the patients room.
I am sad for the lives lost to this pandemic, but relieved that the initial high estimate of lives projected to be lost in the pandemic was incorrect. I am grateful that the president stopped travel from other countries early. I am certain that many lives were saved as a result.
We have admitted many patients with COVID-19 and some have unfortunately did not survive. As in other parts of the country, we have found that the elderly with multiple co-morbidities have been the highest risk, especially those from nursing facilities. In our hospital, my initial fears were that some of our medical staff and employees might become severely infected or worse. I considered myself, due to my advanced age, as high risk. However, at this point I can report the news is very good. Of the 2,500 employees and medical staff at my hospital, only a few became infected with COVID-19 pneumonia and required hospitalization. None of them required ICU admission or intubation and none have died. In reference to our staff of emergency physicians I am the only one who actually has evidence of COVID-19 infection. My test for COVID-19 antibodies is positive. I am the only one of the ED physicians who tested positive. The good news is that I was never ill, did not even have a cold. I am so proud of our entire team of emergency physicians, scribes, nurses, secretaries, respiratory technicians and maintenance staff for their dedicated work. Everyone remained at their stations, showed up for work and faced down their own fears in their own way.
At the end of each day I so grateful to go home to my family, my lovely home and enjoy my collection of Kittinger. Every day is precious. My best wishes to each of you. Thank you for your support of Elmwood Company and for your love of our Kittinger Furniture.