Thu | May 28, 2020

Willing to die in the COVID-19 fight - Jamaican doctor vows to continue facing risk to save lives in Florida

Published:Sunday | April 5, 2020 | 12:00 AM- - - - Karyl Walker - Senior Gleaner Writer
Medical personnel from BayCare test people for the coronavirus in the parking lot outside Raymond James Stadium last week in Tampa, Florida. Governor Ron DeSantis has asked President Donald Trump to declare Florida a disaster area, saying the coronavirus outbreak is having a ‘drastic effect’ on the state’s economy and medical providers.
Jamaica-born doctor, Peter Lindo
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When he took the Hippocratic oath 30 years ago, Jamaica-born doctor Peter Lindo swore to do no harm. He also made a commitment to himself to use what he had learnt to assist his fellow humans to achieve good health.

Now Lindo is among those leading the fight against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in a Miami, Florida, hospital.

All over the United States, hundreds of people are dying from the dreaded respiratory disease. In spite of the risks and fears, however, hospital staff, porters, nurses and doctors have been braving the fight to save those infected with COVID-19.

They witness the debilitating effects of the virus at first hand and are working short of protective personal equipment, putting the lives of their families and themselves at the highest level of risk.

Some cower in fear and would rather not take the gamble, but many are willing to put their lives on the line to save millions.

Lindo is one such brave soul.

“I never thought I made a wrong decision to stay on the front line of the battle. We chose to do this as health professionals; it is the nature of the job. We just have to deal with it,” the doctor shared with The Sunday Gleaner from his Miami-based hospital.

“I have been through other epidemics such as SARS and H1-N1, but to be honest, this is the worst I have seen it.”

Lindo is fully aware that every day he dons his scrubs, that could be the day he contracts the virus, especially due to his constant exposure to infected patients. But he has resolved with a strong determination to see the back of this new disease that has claimed the lives of many of his fellow men, including those in his profession who had dedicated their lives to saving others.

The United States has so far recorded approximately 278,458 COVID-19 cases, with some 7,159 deaths. An estimated 9,897 persons have recovered. In Florida, where Lindo is based, they are battling approximately 10,268 cases, and already an estimated 170 persons have died.

The Jamaican doctor said so far none who has come under his care has died. “Persons have come close to death but, thankfully, we were able to assist them to recover.”

FIGHT MUST CONTINUE

In spite of the fact that while on the job he has no hazmat suit or special equipment, and only a very limited supply of masks and gloves, Lindo declared, “The fight to conquer COVID-19 must continue. It is not in my DNA to give up, even if it means I will die along the way.”

The doctor said he has had to reuse masks due to the dire shortage that now faces the medical staff at the front line of the COVID-19 battle.

“We have two masks – the inner one and the outer one. You have to reuse the outer one, so it is washed after use, but the inside mask has to be protected. That one is the important one that protects us, the medical people,” he said.

Cognisant of the threat, the medical practitioner said he has had to be very careful when he goes home to interact with his wife and children, leaving his work garb at work. However, he still sanitises the clothes he wears home and strips himself of them before entering his South Florida residence.

“I do everything to protect my family. The key is to sanitise. But even when you do that, it is in the back of your head that maybe, just maybe. So I ensure that I sterilise,” he said.

“I have to be with my family, I will have to be a father and a husband. That is my first job. So I really don’t want to bring anything home.”

Lindo added, “We have to be very apprehensive. No precaution is too much. I want to be able to hug and interact with my family. But I can’t and won’t give up on the patients who need me now. I have to keep on doing what I was born to do. Help people.”

He shared that his profession has exposed him to making crucial life-and-death decisions, examining hundreds of patients in the warm climes of South Florida since the outbreak of the new coronavirus.

“I have worked for eight days straight. So far no one has died under our care but many persons are testing positive. Contracting the virus is not a death sentence but as things stand now, we are still learning about it and people have to be very careful how they interact with others. We have to bring this under control,” he said.

SMOKERS NO GREATER RISK

COVID-19 mainly attacks the lungs and can cause chronic respiratory problems for some people. Many persons who have been afflicted by it have been put on ventilators and complain of severe breathing difficulties.

Although smokers are said to be in the high-risk group, Lindo noted that, “I have treated active smokers and there is no evidence so far that they are at any greater risk than anybody else. My most serious patient was not a smoker and had no serious signs or any pre-existing conditions.”

The United States health authorities have projected that some 200,000 lives may be lost to the effects of the coronavirus before it will be contained, and have implemented several measures to stem the spread of the disease.

“I will go to work every day and try my best to ensure that everyone who comes under my care is given a fighting chance at life. I was born to save lives. It is my calling,” Lindo said. “I face a great risk but I would do it all over again.”

Jamaicans who live in Florida have been using various home remedies to ward off COVID-19, including increasing their intake of garlic, a variety of herbs and fruits with a high vitamin C content.

Lindo was indifferent to that approach.

“This is a new virus and we don’t know what will work; that is, until we have all the data. A lot of people have tried these home remedies but there is no 100 per cent security,” he noted.

karyl.walker@gleanerjm.com