Photo: Contributed/Houston Methodist Creative Services
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After working non-stop through an excruciating five months of the coronavirus pandemic, Houston healthcare workers are at the tipping point for exhaustion, according to Houston Methodist ICU director, Dr. Faisal Masud.
"My teams are tired. It's five months--five months they've been working non-stop," Masud said. "We are stretched but we are managing."
Texas set a new record on Wednesday, marking the seventh day in a row that hospitals had fewer than 1,000 beds available, according to Houston Chronicle data analysis. According to Texas Health and Human Services, there were 10,471 COVID-19 hospitalizations statewide on Wednesday.
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Masud is warning Texans about a dangerous misconception that if you are young, you will quickly recover from coronavirus. The serious issue at hand is the long-term effects on your lungs and heart.
"If you get admitted to hospital and you get oxygen, the data that there is some long-lasting damage," Masud said. "If you’re admitted to the ICU, almost half of those patients are showing some abnormality on the heart scan. If you’re young, you may think you can recover, but you are looking at a lifelong impact on the heart and lungs."
According to a report from UC Berkeley, the long-lasting effects of COVID-19 could inflict serious damage to the lungs, heart and gastrointestinal tract.
"One thing we didn’t anticipate was that the virus seems to accelerate a great deal of scarring in the lungs," Dr. John Swartzberg told Berkeley News. "What we really fear is long-term shortness of breath that could extend anywhere from being very mild to severely limiting. There is also a disturbing report looking at computerized tomography (CT) scans of asymptomatic people that found they were left with some scar tissue."
Swartzberg also added that COVID-19 could directly attack the heart.
"There is evidence now that the virus can directly attack heart muscle cells," Swartzberg continued "And, there’s also evidence that the cytokine storm that the virus triggers in the body not only damages the lungs, but can damage the heart."
With the relentless uptick in patients at Houston Methodist, Masud said that it is concerning that Texas is becoming the new epicenter for this coronavirus spread.
"We as Texans pride ourselves to be best, No. 1 at things, but I don’t want to be No. 1 in this," he said. "Our community has the power to stop this and change the trajectory."
Masud said that although his staff is managing, the hospital has had to add Intermediate Care Units due to the surge.
"We're managing quite a few of these patients in our intermediate care units," Masud said. "These are for patients who are not sick enough for ICU, but not well enough to be in another ward. We've been successful so far to provide patient-centered care. We've done a good job stabilizing patients and getting them better."
He's urging all Texans to take this pandemic seriously--"wear your masks, practice social distancing," for the sake of their health and the health of caregivers who must tirelessly to help the community.
"If the Texas Medical Center which is the largest medical complex in the world is telling people to stop and listen, take precautions, I would listen," Masud said.
Masud added that July 4th was a critical time for more infections to occur, but that time will tell.
"We'll find out this week how that plays out," Masud said.