A salute to heroes in the pandemic war

They’re deep in the trenches. Health care workers and medical professionals fighting a war with a common enemy: the coronavirus.

For months, doctors, nurses and other medical personnel, as well as researchers and mental health care professionals, have put their own personal safety on the line to save lives. They’ve sacrificed time with loved ones, nights of sleep and even the right to live in their own homes while caring for COVID-19 patients.

Jmore proudly recognizes the health care heroes among us. Hundreds of members of our community are on the front lines, researching treatments and vaccine possibilities, caring for the critically ill and providing strength to those struggling with this horrific virus.

Here are some of their stories.

As a critical care pulmonologist, Dr. Samuel Minkove is trained to care for the sickest of the sick. But while preparing to treat COVID-19 patients, he says the volume of critically ill patients stunned him.

“What’s been remarkable is how quickly the Hopkins ICU filled with COVID-19 patients and how sick these patients became,” says Dr. Minkove, a second-year fellow in the Pulmonary Division at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Critical Care Medicine Department at the National Institutes of Health’s Clinical Center. “All the patients I saw were getting intubated, which isn’t typical for a regular ICU. I have seen patients this sick with some regularity, but it’s the volume of critically ill patients that’s shocking.”

During his time working in a makeshift ICU at Johns Hopkins’ Downtown Center since the start of the outbreak, Dr. Minkove says his unit had 20 COVID-19 patients and he was responsible for five of them.

“Some of my patients recovered and were able to be extubated, some did not,” he says. “I saw all age ranges, with the youngest being 39. Most were older than 60 when I was on the unit.”

Dr. Minkove admits he was a bit worried for his personal safety before his first COVID-19 shift.

“I was pretty scared before I walked into the unit,” he says. “But after seeing the degree of safety taken upon the unit, I felt safe pretty quickly and got into my regular zone of caring for patients.”

As the father of young twins and husband of a cardiologist, Dr. Minkove takes extra precautions to ensure his family’s safety.

“I only wear scrubs in the hospital and change into regular clothes before getting into my car,” he says. “I change into another outfit in my garage before walking into the house and immediately shower. I also keep my cell phone in a Ziploc bag and only take it out of the bag once I get home.”

Dr. Minkove says he is concerned the spread of the coronavirus “could get even worse” as businesses reopen. “What people need to recognize is there is no cure, so all we can do is provide the best critical care we know how,” he says. “Everyone [at Hopkins] is eager to help in any way they can. There is a real feeling of camaraderie.”