An excerpt from ‘The Adventures of the COVID Hunter’, by FLCCC founding member, Dr. Joseph Varon, who worked 715 days straight in a Houston, Texas ICU.
During the pandemic, we spent countless hours in the COVID-19 unit caring for dozens of patients at a time. Often, I would not eat for a whole day. Many of our patients were aware of how hard we were working, and in many instances, they would ask their family members to bring us food. At some point in time, we were overwhelmed by the number of families that would bring us a variety of foods. Most of them were not “healthy” but we did not care, as we were all starving.
One day, the spouse of one of the TV reporters that had come to the unit to understand how we worked sent us several boxes of donuts. You must know that I LOVE donuts and, unfortunately, I do not know how to eat only one. So, receiving several boxes of donuts really made my day. I was so happy about this occurrence that I kept telling my patients about it as I did my daily rounds.
I went to see a 42-year-old lady whom we had admitted with severe COVID-19 pneumonia that had required her to be placed on a machine that provides oxygen and pressure without the need to place a tube in the throat. Such a device, called BiPAP, allows the body to get oxygenation but must be kept attached to the face via a very specific mask. Our patient was compliant with the use of such a device, and she was allowed to remove the device a couple of times a day for short periods of time, so she could have some small meals with very strict nursing supervision.
This patient was progressing well, and I was quite optimistic she would do well. After I had examined her, I told her that she was doing well and that I expected she would be off the BiPAP device in the next 48 hours. I then proceeded to tell her how happy I was with my “donuts” that day. She immediately tried to tell me something, but because of the mask, I could not understand what she was saying. I offered her a piece of paper and a pen, so she could write what she was asking me.
I gave her the piece of paper and pen, expecting she would ask something about her condition, or the BiPAP. I was shocked when I saw her message:
This lady was critically ill, and her only request for me was that she wanted a donut!
You must understand that most of my patients at the time had no taste, and many of them were not interested in food. For me to see that a patient was specifically asking for a donut was something quite unique. So I decided to get out of the unit, pick up a donut, and come right back to the patient. I then proceeded to remove the BiPAP device from the patient and place her on a high-flow nasal cannula, while observing her levels of oxygen and other vital signs. I sat with her and watched her eat the donut. I must say that I also brought a donut for myself, and we both enjoyed it very much.
The facial expression that my patient had when I brought her the donut made me extremely happy. This lady was quite ill, yet there was something that I could do in between this medical chaos to make her happy.
As the days went on, this lady was able to come off her BiPAP device, and slowly progressed to the point where she no longer required oxygen and was able to be sent home. I have been following her since that day in my outpatient clinic, and every time she comes to see me, she brings me a box of donuts.