July 1, 2021 – March 11 through May 2, 2020 was definitely the worst time of the pandemic for New Yorkers.
Nearly 19,000 people died of COVID-19 in New York City these weeks, the equivalent of over 350 deaths a day and more than one death every 5 minutes. No one saw the chaotic early days of the pandemic more than the city’s key workers, including those on the front lines of Mount Sinai Hospital.
And in The Surge at Mount Sinai, a documentary streamed today on Discovery +, you’ll be transported to the hospital’s intensive care units and meet several early hospitalized patients, as well as the heroic doctors, nurses and auxiliaries of the Mount Sinai intensive care unit.
To find out how his staff is doing and what he thinks about the film, we interviewed David L. Reich, MD, President of Mount Sinai, one of the largest and most overburdened health systems in the country, about Zoom. Read on to read his thoughts on COVID-19, the documentary and what worries him most right now.
WebMD: When did you know we were in trouble with this virus?
Rich: End of February. I am fortunate to be connected with colleagues in Italy and it was during this time that the messages of desperation got through. It was very frightening. They stated that this is not just a respiratory virus and is overwhelming for hospitals and staff. They told me to try to be ready.
WebMD: The movie really deals with the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that your team is still feeling. How much do you focus on that today?
Rich: We are blessed Dr. Dennis Charney as dean of the Icahn School of Medicine on Mount Sinai. He’s an expert on resilience, and he pounced on it because these issues are most important to us. We recently created the Stress, Resilience, and Personal Growth Center to help our employees recover. This virus was like a war, and we know from PTSD in the wartime context that PTSD has phases and can last a long time. The most difficult thing for our employees was the fear of getting infected or bringing the infection home. Then there was the fact that our patients with this virus died alone with no family members present. The staff stepped in and did FaceTime with family members who were saying goodbye. Our pastors could not be in the hospital, so the staff, especially our nurses, prayed when the families asked, at the moment of death. We were a substitute for the families who couldn’t be there in the most emotional moment in life when you lose a loved one. Intervening in that moment changed us all forever.