Behind the front lines of the fight against COVID-19 in Denver

Coronavirus

DENVER (KDVR) — Doctors inside the intensive care unit at Denver Health Medical Center are sharing their experiences treating COVID-19 patients.

The hospital’s intensive care unit houses 24 patients, some of whom have the coronavirus and are fighting for their lives. As of Thursday afternoon, Colorado had at least 1,430 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 184 patients hospitalized because of it. Some of the most critical are at Denver Health.

“It’s very sad to say, people I have right now are on a life support machine in the ICU,” said Dr. Ivor Douglas, a pulmonary sciences and critical care expert who is also the intensive care director. “That wasn’t the pattern last week. Half of them were on life support. As a consequence, every single one of them has life-threatening organ failures.”

Douglas is in charge of a collaborative group of more than 100 healthcare providers who are treating COVID-19 patients both inside and outside of the ICU. This includes nurses, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, social workers and more.

“This is sheer terror, combined with incredible energy and optimism, about bringing phenomenal teams together to do the right thing,” Douglas said.

Case in point: Thursday, Denver Health doctors were able to remove a coronavirus patient from a respirator and transfer the patient out of the ICU.

“That for us, is extraordinary,” Douglas said. “We’re going to take every one of those against-the-odds outcomes as a measure of how effective our care is.”

That care begins as health care providers triage the growing number of coronavirus patients every day and work to make them stronger.

“One of the new things I’ve integrated into my workflow is to check in on COVID patients and see if we can reduce some of their oxygen needs, work a little on their ventilator and see if we can come down on their sedation,” said Dr. Katie McPherson, who is finishing a fellowship in the ICU.

McPherson, like other doctors who are treating COVID-19 patients, along with those who aren’t, has one important message for Colorado:

“If you can do your part by social distancing and trying to keep yourself and your loved ones safe, then please do that,” McPherson said.

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