Bay Area doctor returns from helping fight COVID-19 in New York City

A Bay Area doctor is sharing lessons learned on the front lines battling COVID-19 in America's hot spot, New York City.

Doctor Larry Burchett returned Friday night from a seven-day stint volunteering at a hospital.

He works as what he calls a hospital doctor in the Bay Area and Southern California.

He says he got to see first-hand some things we have been fortunate not to see in the Bay area, as the virus continues to ravage New York, which the Governor there acknowledged Saturday.

"The number that I watch every day, which is the worst, is the number of deaths.  That number has remained obnoxiously high and terrifyingly high, and it's still not dropping at the rate we would like to see it drop," said New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo. 

“It's an incredibly unique virus and I've never seen anything like it,” said Dr. Burchett.

Burchett spent the last week helping to save lives and one of the first things he says he saw was how quickly the virus can take hold, something  he witnessed while helping a patient who originally came in with a non-virus related issue.

“We had one patient who was admitted to the ER who didn't even have Covid.  He was there for other reasons, psych reasons, and he was fine in the morning and then all of a sudden in the afternoon his breathing, his respiratory status went into the tank,” said Burchett.

Though the respiratory system has been seen as the most vulnerable area, doctor Burchett says he saw the disease ravage bodies in many more ways.

“I can't think of anything else that can cause respiratory failure, pneumonia, a stroke, heart failure, clots in your lungs, and kidney failure. What else can do that? I've never seen anything in practice.”

Burchett estimates half the patients he saw needed dialysis due to kidney failure.

And though many patients recover, many still need oxygen for some time after recovery.

“They would gradually improve every day, and then they would get stuck and they would plateau. All they needed was a couple of liters of oxygen. We often give people a tank to take with them to go home. New York was out of oxygen tanks for this area, so these guys were stuck in the hospital waiting to get better,” he said.

Though he's optimistic a “new” normal way of life can slowly begin to emerge, he warns we must tread slowly and patiently based on what his eyes have seen.

“Humanity is going to be victorious, but it's going to be a while. Buckle in. Get used to this. We're not going to go to baseball games in a couple weeks. The world is not going to be the same thing. It's not going to end, but it sure is changing,” said Burchett.

He said the reason he put his life in danger by going to a hot zone to volunteer was because he wanted to help, and when he saw how low the number of cases in the Bay Area were in comparison, he felt compelled to jump in where needed, and that was New York City.