Sanja Golubic, Natasha Lambevska, Slavica Boncanoska
“City General Hospital 8th September” Skopje, North Macedonia
In March our hospital was renamed as a COVID-19 hospital where all the COVID-19 positive or suspected patients who needed emergency surgery or some other interventions (coronary catheterisation, angioplasty, dialysis) were admitted. This includes also hospitalisation and treatment of more severe confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 who needed mechanical ventilation.
We all worked as a team. In the beginning, we were a bit scared because we were facing the unknown. The proper usage of personal protective equipment was maybe the most important thing because our role anaesthesiologists mean that we have maybe the highest risk of COVID-19 infection because of the aerosol-generating procedures that we actually do in our everyday work.
We remember in December when we first heard about the existence of COVID-19, It seemed so far from us and our country and so unreal and we had to face the challenge when the first case appeared. We faced a complete reorganisation in our hospital, creating different pathways, learning about our obligations during admission and patient treatment. We had special lessons and practice at first until the moment came when the first three patients were admitted in the COVIDICU and put on mechanical ventilation. It was very hard to work dressed in full personal protective equipment. The fear among us existed on every emergency call whether it was for cardiopulmonary reanimation or emergency surgery for COVID positive patients.
We felt exhausted, dehydrated, with a lost sense of touch on our fingers. The role of anaesthesia residents is very important. We all work as a team with our specialists, ICU and anaesthetic nurses. During 24-hour shifts, there were moments when we worked dressed for more than 6-8 hours continuously in a medical suit. In our hospital, there were around 20-30 hospital admissions per day with severe cases of COVID-19 who needed mechanical ventilation or emergency surgery or an emergency procedure.
There were patients who developed severe complications in a short period of time or during transport and unfortunately we couldn’t do anything. The truth is we are facing a pandemic and it is very scary, new and challenging. We are facing the fear of the unknown, discovering new treatments, new techniques for treating patients, new ways of protecting ourselves, protecting our families. We, as residents, are proud to be part of this battle even it is very hard, even if it sometimes seems impossible, but the feeling at the end when we take patients off ventilators and save their lives and send them home in good health is the light at the end of the tunnel…those are the moments we are training for.
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