Trey Yingst is an experienced reporter who has covered the news under many life-threatening, hostile conditions. For fun, he engages in thrilling extreme sports, such as cliff jumping and skydiving. However, when he donned a hospital-issued N95 mask and entered Sheba Medical Center’s critical care unit for coronavirus, he witnessed the situation first-hand and stated, “When standing feet away from people infected with the coronavirus, you are acutely aware of the small barriers between yourself and the disease … There are very few things that scare me. This is different.”
Upon arrival at Sheba, Yingst was brought to a room where nurses rest in between shifts. He noted the exhaustion of the medical staff, who have been working around the clock for weeks already, wearing personal protective gear for approximately two hours at a time.
Social worker Noy Koster met with Yingst and recalled her experiences in the ward. As the staff member appointed to inform the family of many COVID-19 victims that it was time to say goodbye, poignant memories could be seen in her eyes, the only part of her face visible above her mask. She discussed how she was present when loved ones said a final prayer or gave their last hugs.
Preparation to enter the COVID-19 ward was painstaking and exact, as a single mistake could be fatal. Yingst slipped his feet into shoe covers, sanitized his hands, put on a smock, sanitized his hands, added gloves, a face mask, hair net, and protective visor, and sanitized his hands.
When he finally entered the COVID-19 unit, he expressed how one could read the fear in the eyes of the patients who were alert, and the patients on ventilators were unconscious, in drug-induced comas. He described how the bravery of the doctors and nurses was almost palpable.
“Once inside, it’s nothing like hospitals you see in afternoon soap operas. It’s much more raw… [The medical staff] don’t hesitate in their treatment. They dive right in, knowing all the risks.”
Less than a day before Yingst’s visit to Sheba, Prof. Haim Mayan, head of the hospital’s coronavirus critical care unit, discussed the deep dedication of the doctors as “willing to commit suicide” for patients.
Around the world, more than 180,000 people have died of COVID-19 infections, including many doctors and nurses. Prof. Mayan looked around at the hospitalized patients in the isolated ward and discussed how challenging – intense and emotional – these recent weeks have been. He told Yingst about how he lost his colleague to coronavirus and was responsible for informing his colleague’s wife.
“When I gave her the news, the first thing she did was ask me if I was OK,” he said.
Yingst summed up his first-hand experience with the conclusion that everyone he met at Sheba, from the head of the unit to the social worker and dozens of other members of the medical team, shared many traits. “They are brave. They are resilient. And they are willing to die to save others.”