I am on my knees, wearing a yellow decontamination gown that has already torn at the right forearm and left wrist. I listen to rhonchi in the lungs of an obese febrile man, who likely aspirated on the brown emesis he threw up on himself. The apartment is dim, and smells heavily of cigarettes and urine. There is no bulb in the overhead light and the shades are pulled. Dust rises up from the thick carpet that has likely never seen a vacuum cleaner. My face mask has fogged up to the point I can barely see the blood pressure gauge record 70 something systolic. The man’s SAT is 88%. The visiting nurse doesn’t know anything about him beyond what she can read on her laptop. It says, he had a COVID test three months ago that was negative, she says. He is in no shape to answer any of my questions, foremost among them, does he hang out with or share an aide with the guy on the 2nd floor who’s in the ICU with COVID pneumonia.
When the ambulance crew arrives there is no room to get the stretcher in. I now have a nonrebreather on the patient, who’s SAT is 87%. I hear a belly sound and quickly move the mask off his face as he throws up brown wet vomit that again runs down his stained shirt.
To get him up, we have to roll him onto a bath blanket and then blanket-carry him out to the hallway where the stretcher is in a low position. It takes four of us to do the carry he is so large. I have to stand on the mattress to get leverage. He vomits again on the way to the hospital. I hold back a sympathy puke. I want to take my face shield off but I feel like I am in COVID mosquito cloud, and if I take any protection off — no matter how uncomfortable, I am done for.
At the hospital dispatch gives us extra time to decon before we get back on the road again.
Walking out of the ED, I see two new stretchers come in with patients on oxygen and the crews in full decontamination gowns.
If this is the start of the feared second wave, then It’s going to be a long fall into winter..