Bay Area doctors and nurses share front-line stories from two coasts -- COVID-19 Diaries

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- When New York's governor pleaded to doctors from across the country to help out in the epicenter of the U.S. novel coronavirus fight, UCSF Professor of Emergency Medicine Dr. Clement Yeh answered the call along with 19 other UCSF doctors and nurses.

He's providing support for four weeks to the New York-Presbyterian hospital system. Dr. Yeh has realized it's going to be a long four weeks.

"I'm kind of more girding myself for a long haul. I'm here for only a few weeks, but what I am seeing is that, just like everywhere else, this is a marathon, not a sprint," Yeh explains. "There is a long way to go still and a lot of continued sick patients that we're going to be taking care of for some time."

COVID-19 DIARIES: Personal stories of Bay Area residents during novel coronavirus pandemic

He says the palliative care teams are being challenged by the volume of end of life discussions and end of life care. One of the hardest parts of his job are the phone calls he must make to family members of patients.

"Those are some of the hardest phone calls to make--to explain how sick and how in trouble loved ones are to people who cannot physically be there," Yeh says. "Even with video conferencing technologies, even with whatever we can try to do for communication, it is tremendously sad to not be able to have people at the bedside of their loved ones."

While he sees progress with continued shelter-in-place restrictions and social distancing, he worries things could quickly take a turn.

"We still need to stay on the gas, if you will. If people don't stay vigilant. There could be another spike," stressed Dr. Yeh.

It's a sentiment echoed by pediatric neonatal critical transport nurse Krista Chavez and her husband Tim Weiant, an emergency department nurse practitioner, who both work in San Francisco.

RELATED: Coronavirus and the new normal of living in the San Francisco Bay Area -- COVID-19 Diaries

"I'm concerned we're going to start seeing a spike as people get fatigued with being stuck inside the weather's getting nicer," says Chavez.

Since the start of the pandemic, Weiant says the mindset has changed in the hospital.

"Everything's changed, everything. We basically think in the ER, everybody's got COVID. That's how we think now," said Weiant.

They're having to make a variety of adjustments to do their jobs safely. They're seemingly small changes that can be hugely draining mentally and emotionally.

"How I go into the emergency departments change--how I use my hands. What do I touch? Where am I possibly picking up COVID? The doorknob? Is it the mouse? Is it the microwave oven door in the break room? So you get a little paranoid after awhile. So it's kind of this exhausting exercise examining everything you do, that you've been doing for over 25 years, and I have to relearn everything from scratch," Weiant explains.

It's also a new routine coming home to protect their kids.

"We wipe down. We change our clothes. We wipe down our shoes, and then take them off. We have one car, that's the work car, and so our gear stays in there or doesn't even come home," Chavez details. "I'm grateful to be able to be out there and to be helping. You know, we both love our jobs and so I'm grateful for that. It's also really stressful to think that, you know, we're going out and exposing, you know, our family to that and because we both are essential workers and we're both out there."

COVID-19 Diaries is an ABC7 Originals limited series that shares the personal stories of Bay Area people as we work together to cope with coronavirus and re-define what it means to live in the San Francisco Bay Area.

If you have a question or comment about the coronavirus pandemic, submit yours via the form below or here.

Get the latest news, information and videos about the novel coronavirus pandemic here

RELATED STORIES & VIDEOS:
Copyright © 2020 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.