Dr. Joseph Varon, the chief medical officer in Houston’s United Memorial Medical Center, has house after a long day on the job.
Dr. Joseph Varon hasn’t had a day off in weeks.
Friday was his 134th successive day directing the coronavirus unit in Houston’s United Memorial Medical Center.
“If you ask me how the hell have I been able to survive for 134 days nonstop, I guess it’s adrenaline,” he explained. “But I’m running on fumes. It’s tough.”
And this past week was his toughest yet. With Houston coping with a spike in Covid-19 instances, that he signed more death certificates than he has at any stage in his profession.
“People were dying every day,” he explained.
Nurse Flor Trevino prepares a body to be hauled to a morgue. The individual died during an intubation process.
Varon wrote this notice that detailed a patient’s departure on July 17.
Varon’s workday begins early. Approximately 4:30 or 5 a.m., he heads into the hospital and goes right to the coronavirus unit at which he and his staff go over every patient’s case.
He then begins making the rounds.
“He’s involved with everything and very, very personal,” stated photographer Callaghan O’Hare, who shadowed him a few times within the last month. “He will sit on the bed with people and give them hugs and have a chat. It’s pretty incredible to watch.”
Caring for your coronavirus sufferers requires a minimum of 10 hours every day, Varon stated. Following that, he meets with his other patients at the hospital — the individuals who don’t have coronavirus.
“If I am lucky, I get home before 10 o’clock at night. If I’m not lucky, which is most of the time, I make it home around midnight,” he explained.
Varon and his staff discuss individual files through a daily assembly. “I’m afraid that at some point in time I’m going have to make some very serious decisions,” Varon stated in July. “I’m starting to get the idea that I cannot save everybody.”
This X-ray indicates a patient’s lungs within the coronavirus unit.
Obviously, Varon isn’t the only one making sacrifices. He’s quick to praise his staff and also the long, hard hours that they put in.
“The nursing life inside a Covid unit is tough,” he explained. “Every time they go in and they wear those spacesuits, they come out sweating like there’s no tomorrow. It’s like a mini sauna for them.”
The job is exhausting, with everybody on employees wearing several layers of personal protective equipment, or PPE. Varon has nurses slide in their own perspiration.
It’s also emotionally draining.
“I have seen nurses, in the middle of rounds, just start crying,” Varon stated. “Crying because they just can’t handle it anymore.”
Varon moves a bit of newspaper into colleague Cesar Barrera because he checks on individuals at the emergency area.
Varon talks about the telephone when sitting at a desk at the team lounge. His mobiles — he conveys two — are always ringing, and he’s frequently taking media orders and allowing journalists receive a firsthand look at what it’s like inside his hospital.
O’Hare says she had been struck, however, by the benefit of Varon’s staffers and how dedicated they were to really make a difference.
“They really try to take the time to get to know the patients,” she explained.
It isn’t simple to contact someone as soon as your head is covered by a mask along with a shield and you’re dressed head to toe in PPE. However, Varon’s team has a remedy.
“The doctor and then the nurses will all wear printed photographs of themselves over their PPE so the patients can at least know what they look like and have an idea of who they’re talking to,” O’Hare explained.
Varon speaks to coronavirus individual Henry Rodriguez on July 10. The team wears published photos of these so they can create a more personal link.
Efrain Guevara is determined by a hospital mattress on July 17. He had been hospitalized after being diagnosed with Covid-19.
Three physicians on Varon’s employees have contracted Covid-19 in the last couple of months. Varon doesn’t understand where they contracted it, but in the hospital they’re always careful with respect to PPE.
“I often tell people I feel more comfortable inside my unit than outside my unit,” he explained.
Nurse Christina Mathers tested positive .
“That’s the hardest thing to ever hear. … It messes with you,” stated Mathers, who’d been operating every other day because April 29. “But I wouldn’t go anywhere else but here.”
Varon hugs Christina Mathers, a nurse by his group who became contaminated with Covid-19.
A worker puts a signal reading “cleaned vent” on a piece of medical equipment.
Houston is the county seat of Harris County, which as of Friday was in the USA for many confirmed instances of Covid-19.
“I’ve heard quite an increase in ambulances, just at all hours of the day,” said O’Hare, who resides in Houston. “And I have done quite a lot of coverage standing at the parking lot of the Texas Medical Center and viewing the amount of ambulances going out and in at testing centers.“
She says she’s seen people appear in 11:30 the night before just to make certain they have a place in line and may get analyzed the following day.
“It’s pretty chaotic,” she explained.
A guy delivers balloons into the area of a coronavirus individual who had been missing his daughter’s birthday.
A medical student checks on Larissa Raudales, an 18-year old who had been hospitalized after being diagnosed with coronavirus. “I was fearful. … I believed I could not breathe ,” Raudales explained. “I only thought I was planning to die right there.”
The first twice O’Hare seen Varon’s hospital, that the coronavirus unit was at maximum capability. The US Army came after to help enlarge the region and add more beds.
A few of the individuals O’Hare saw during these earlier visits didn’t survive. It was hard to consider.
“One of the hardest things to watch was after a man died, they put his belongings in a plastic bag next to him — just basketball shorts, a T-shirt, shoes,” she explained. “And it really struck me that this guy died with no loved ones members and friends being there to say goodbye.
“No one deserves anything like that, and we all have a part to play in making sure that that doesn’t happen to more people in Texas.”
Jonnie Harrison sleeps in a bed near her husband, Riley, on July 25. Both of these were hospitalized at the coronavirus unit.
Health-care employees take a rest from damaging coronavirus patients.
Varon has been vocal regarding the Covid-19 danger and the importance of wearing masks. That hasn’t sat well with everybody.
“People are calling my office and leaving threats because of all the media I’ve been doing, because they don’t believe that what we’re doing is real,” he explained.
Varon desires people to seeThis is not a hoax. This is really a thing. People are dying.
“You have no idea my frustration when I leave the hospital, I’m heading home, and then in one of these outdoor malls I see a hundred cars, a bunch of young guys or young women having a party — no face masks, no nothing. That kills me,” he explained. “People are not listening.”
A medical-school pupil requires a rest in a break room. The group was operating around the clock last month to take care of a surge of Covid-19 cases.
Callaghan O’Hare is a photographer located in Houston. Follow her on Instagram.
Photo editor: Brett Roegiers