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Sep 14, 2021

Dealing With Death: Medical Professionals and COVID-19

If you have been following the COVID-19 numbers, you will know there were nineteen COVID deaths over the last week. This is an astonishingly high number for all of us to process, even in the abstract. But imagine that you are one of the healthcare workers, or even hospitalized patients, watching these people die – dying despite the availability of life-saving vaccinations.  Tonight, News Five draws on some candid conversations with medical professionals appearing on Channel Five’s “Open Your Eyes” and “Get the Facts!” that reveals how the constant, round-the-clock treatment they have to render to patients is starting to take its toll.


Casilda Bowman, Head Nurse, COVID Unit, K.H.M.H.

“Sometimes we have four people that are positive outside and then we have to try triage and sort these patients to see who will get to be seen first.”


Marion Ali, Reporting

The overcrowding at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital’s COVID unit is becoming so worrisome for the hospital’s medical staff that the thought that someday soon they will simply not have any more space to fit COVID patients is becoming all too real. Head nurse at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital’s COVID ward, Casilda Bowman, says patients are showing up for treatment much more frequently now and with more complications than when the virus first swept through Belize.


Casilda Bowman

“Yesterday we got about seven admissions in a space of maybe three, four hours, so we’re seeing a lot more people coming in, [a] lot more people coming in with more symptoms than we were seeing last year. Most of them are coming in with shortness of breath and the shortness of breath is also accompanied by a low saturation. Last year, some months, we were in numbers of like twenty-six admissions for the month, and now we’re like sixty admissions for the month.”


Bowman says that the high volume of COVID cases at the hospital has become so dire sometimes patients have to cope with the trauma of seeing another patient die—or even witnessing multiple deaths.


Casilda Bowman

“We have had patients who I can tell you have seen maybe five deaths within the time they’re there and so their anxiety level is extremely high. We have to figure out how can we help that person. Sometimes our best fix is to try to move the patient out and put the patient in the next room. Then what we’re doing is putting the patient in an isolation room alone with his thoughts or her thoughts, so it’s complex.”


It is also complex for the medical and nursing staff who must witness these people dying.


Darcell Duran, Nurse, COVID Unit, K.H.M.H.

“For me, it’s a real emotional breakdown when I have to deal with these patients. So the best I can and they still don’t make it. Then I go home with all this emotion and frustration on my mind. It’s really hard to deal with.”


Casilda Bowman

“Once I had Dr. Cruz finishing a CPR and crying in a corner because she did everything [she] possibly could have done to save the patient and [the patient] still passed. The connection that comes from having a patient for two weeks is a lot. You understand. We see them, we talk to them, you know, we try to cheer them up, the little we can do and then when we see them go, it’s extremely hard.”


It is also hard for COVID patients who experience serious health issues, such as internist, Dr. Atanacio Cob who got infected long before there was a vaccine as an option to fight the virus.


Dr. Atanacio Cob, ENT Specialist, Belize Medical Associates

“I’m hypertensive, of course I take my medication. I said you don’t know what is going to be the outcome, and that fear and that anxiety begins to creep in you that you still have lots of things to do. You still haven’t done everything.”


William Neal, Host

“Life flashes in front of you.”


Dr. Atanacio Cob

“Yeah, life flashes out in front of you and I said my children still need me.”


Dr. Fernando Cuellar, who is an internist, chides many people, saying they have become numb to the reality, perhaps because we are looking at the weekly number of deaths as mere statistics rather than otherwise healthy people who die horrible deaths. He has a sobering warning for people who are still being rebellious, refusing to follow safety regulations.


Dr. Fernando Cuellar, Internist, Belize Medical Associates

“Weh wa get dramatic is wen dehn di lie down pahn Karl Heusner floor di beg fi wa lee oxygen. Our numbers have not peaked. Our numbers have not gone to the bottom and we got more fi goh worserer if we nuh do what we supposed to do as wa Belizean community, which da basic public health thing: wear yoh mask properly, wash yoh hand, physical distance, nuh di crowd up. If yoh see somebody eena the isle, yoh hold back. You do yoh part.”


The virus has spread so extensively throughout the country now that there’s only one assumption to make in protecting ourselves.


Dr. Atanacio Cob

“Think that anybody who you come in contact with now has COVID. It has come to the point now that you cannot assume that where you go that people are not infected. We have to begin to change the way we think that anybody who we encounter may be positive and more so, the people who are not vaccinated.”


Cob is of the view that anti-vaxxers have no right to discourage others from taking the vaccine when they themselves have not sat at the bedside of COVID patients to see just how much they suffer before dying.  Marion Ali for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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