‘If not me, who?’ Denver ICU doctors talk about treating COVID-19 patients

Coronavirus
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DENVER (KDVR) — One of the front lines in the fight against COVID-19 in Colorado is inside the intensive care unit at Denver Health.

One of the state’s biggest and busiest hospitals has treated hundreds of coronavirus patients and recently doubled the number of its ICU beds to be prepared for a potential surge in patients.

“Somber and really businesslike, but there’s moments of joyfulness,” said Dr. Ivor Douglas, the director of the hospital’s medical intensive care unit, when describing the atmosphere inside.

As of Thursday, Denver Health had 64 COVID-19 patients. Fourteen of them were on ventilators. And since the beginning of the year, the hospital has treated and discharged 175 coronavirus patients.

“We’ve had some extraordinary successes,” Douglas said. “We’ve been taking people off vents after a month.”

“I love seeing people get better and I thrive on it,” said Dr. Katie McPherson, who recently finished a fellowship at Denver Health.

She’s a pulmonologist who’s treated close to 100 COVID-19 patients. She’s seen the success of patients recovering, but also the sadness and struggle of treating seriously ill patients who may not recover.

“This is my job,” McPherson said. “This is what I trained to do. If not me, who? And I want to do it because I feel like I can provide good critical care for folks.”

For now, Denver Health has enough ventilators and personal protective equipment. But Douglas said it is running low on prescription medicines for patients on ventilators and life support.

Still, he is optimistic about the future.

“What gives me hope is that there is a real sustained understanding of the role of science, data and evidence as drivers of rational public policy and decision making,” Douglas said.

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