In the war against coronavirus, doctors and nurses do battle not only against the disease – they battle exhaustion, too.
Nurses meticulously take swabs at mobile testing sites and comfort those racked with fear. Doctors consult patients in triage tents via iPads. Emergency room nurses and doctors examine the critically ill patients. Support staff clear hallways and deliver coveted ventilators, tubing, and protective gear. And so it continues, hour after hour, day after day.
Those suffering need comfort. Many are dying – and dying alone. However, one thing is clear: precious lives are being saved by the hospital staff risking their own.
We go inside one Florida hospital to document these medical heroes doing everything they can to save people.
Above: After comforting a woman she swabbed for COVID-19 testing, registered nurse Jenna Puckett takes a momentary rest before resuming testing at a mobile site in Cape Coral, Fla. “She was afraid and overwhelmed,” Puckett said of the woman she tested. “She just needed someone to listen.”
Above: Monitoring equipment cords from outside a COVID-19 patient’s room are pushed under the door to registered nurse Aubry Sander in the intensive care unit at Gulf Coast Medical Center in Fort Myers, Fla. This is done to reduce the number of times a patient’s door is opened and helps prevent cross-contamination.
Above: Physician assistant Allison Ridgway reads a COVID-19 patient’s x-ray at Gulf Coast Medical Center in Fort Myers, Fla.
Above: Advance provider Brittiany Garrett listens intently to a coworker’s question about a COVID-19 test sample at a mobile site in Fort Myers, Fla. The increasing number of people being tested requires nurses to pay extreme attention to detail when gathering and transporting test samples.
Above: A patient with COVID-19 symptoms is prepared for admission by emergency room nurses at Gulf Coast Medical Center in Fort Myers, Fla.
Above: Registered nurse Aubry Sander cares for a COVID-19 patient in a negative pressure room (NPR) at Gulf Coast Medical Center in Fort Myers, Fla. NPRs help prevent cross-contamination from room to room. The room’s ventilation system generates pressure lower than of the surroundings, allowing air to flow in but not out.
Above: “Yes. I will pray for you,” Chaplin Michael Schorin tells a COVID-19 patient who requested spiritual comfort at Gulf Coast Medical Center in Fort Myers, Fla. Schorin says he’s been praying a lot lately. “God hasn’t forgotten you,” Schorin told the patient before leaving.
Above: Emergency room nurse Tristan Manbevers checks in a woman complaining of COVID-19 symptoms at Gulf Coast Medical Center in Fort Myers, Fla.
Above: Bags containing sterilized N95 masks await pick up by nurses and doctors at Gulf Coast Medical Center in Fort Myers, Fla. Masks can be recycled twice before they are thrown away.
Above: A triage tent to examine potential COVID-19 patients is set up outside Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers, Fla. The tents help prevent the virus from spreading into the emergency room and main hospital.
Above: Dr. Karen Calkins and Kathy Richards-Bessshare give COVID-19 testing updates on a conference call at a mobile testing site setup in a park in Cape Coral, Fla.
Above: Medical assistant Karen Spradlin and registered nurse Chris Blue input COVID-19 testing data at a mobile testing site in Cape Coral, Fla.
As COVID-19 spreads across Southwest Florida, so does the courage of nurses, doctors and staff at Lee Health, the area’s largest healthcare system.
They’re fighting for the lives of loved ones, co-workers and friends infected by disease, which attacks the respiratory system without warning. It’s like the wind – invisible, far-reaching, uncontrollable.
Inside the COVID intensive care unit it is surprisingly quiet. Only the hopeful whooshes of ventilators sound off in the negative-pressure rooms. Nurses monitor vitals, adjust fluids and carefully reposition patients. Outside the rooms, they turn their protective gear inside out and get back to the fight.
This war is ongoing. More than 15,000 confirmed cases in Florida alone, more than 300 deaths. This week, the U.S. surpassed 10,000 deaths, topping the number of battle deaths from six U.S. wars combined.
In tents, emergency rooms and intensive care units, a war is taking place.
Visual journalist Kinfay Moroti, who photographed the Iraq War, now finds himself on the front lines in Southwest Florida, documenting the doctors, nurses and all who support them as they deploy everything they have against an invisible enemy — the novel coronavirus.
He gowned up, used his own N95 mask and spent several hours in the ICU observing these newfound soldiers to provide these moments exclusively to the USA TODAY NETWORK. They offer rare, unfettered access into one hospital system’s battle against the odds.
©2020. Photos by Kinfay Moroti/Special to USA Today.
Visual journalist Kinfay Moroti is a partner at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation in Fort Myers, Florida. Connect with him at 239-476-2080. Email: email@example.com. Facebook: Kinfay Moroti. Instagram: @Kinfay.