There were patients in their s and in their s. Patients whose asthma and diabetes helped explain their serious illness. And patients who seemed to have no risk factors at all. Patients from nursing homes. Patients who had no homes. Pregnant women, some of whom would not be conscious when their babies were delivered to increase their odds of surviving to raise their children.
This was the week that the coronavirus crisis pummeled hospitals throughout New York City, where deaths reached more than 2, , as the governor warned that vital equipment and supplies would run short in just a few days. The mayor pleaded for more doctors, and hospital officials and political leaders said that the situation would get even worse.
At the Brooklyn Hospital Center – a medium-size independent community hospital – that toll was evident. Deaths attributed to the virus more than quintupled from the previous week. The number of inpatients confirmed to have Covid – , the disease caused by the virus, grew from to 124, with 67 more awaiting results. Hospital leaders estimated that about a third of doctors and nurses were out sick.
The hospital temporarily ran out of protective plastic gowns, of the main sedative for patients on ventilators, and of a key blood pressure medication. The sense of urgency and tragedy was heightened by a video, circulating online, showing a forklift hoisting a body into a refrigerated trailer outside the hospital.
Some nurses cared for five critically ill patients at a time, when the norm there was just two. The array of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and respiratory therapists accustomed to working in the I.C.U. needed reinforcements, so a podiatrist and two of her resident trainees, a neurosurgery physician assistant, surgery residents and a nurse anesthetist joined in to help.
Dr. James Gasperino, the chair of medicine and vice president for critical care at the hospital, conferred in the hallway with the director of respiratory therapy. The hospital had 115 ventilators, many acquired in recent days. Employees were running simulations to practice how they might use each ventilator to treat two patients, a difficult and risky proposition.
“We’re doing this because the alternative is death,” Dr. Gasperino said.