FORT MYERS, Fla. — It's the two year anniversary of the coronavirus pandemic in Southwest Florida and our community hospitals came together on Tuesday to talk about how far we've progressed, the work that went on behind the scenes, the number of patients the hospital systems have seen, and the number of lives lost.
Dr. Shyam Kapadia, who's a pulmonologist and specializes in critical care for Lee Health, had some powerful things to say, offering perspective on what it was like for patients and healthcare workers.
"I remember like it was yesterday that I was taking care of my first COVID-19 patient," said Kapadia. "It was our job to bring them home, and we took that responsibility wholeheartedly. Unfortunately there were times where we failed and didn’t bring them home, but in those moments we made sure that they felt loved by holding their hands, playing their favorite music, comforting them and FaceTiming you as they passed away in front of our eyes."
A moment of silence was held for those who died inside Lee Health and NCH Healthcare System from COVID-19 in the last two years.
Dr. Larry Antonucci, the President & Chief Executive Officer of Lee Health, said almost 28,000 people have been treated in their system. While more than 26,000 patients have recovered, about 1,400 patients lost their lives.
"We, too, lost... 377 people due to COVID," said Paul Hiltz, the President and CEO NCH Healthcare System.
"For the ones that didn’t make it home to you I am personally sorry for your loss,” Dr. Kapadia.
During the last two years, Lee Health says the system has gone through millions of pieces of personal protective equipment, two million gowns, two and a half million gloves, and 240,000 surgical masks.
Dr. Shyam Kapadia said this pandemic was something you couldn’t go back home and read in textbooks because it hadn’t been written yet. It's changed history and medicine and taught many to learn on the fly.
When asked what he wants the community to know:
"I want them to know that this was hard; this took away our breath," he said. "As we took care of these patients we had an unwavering commitment to them, and that’s just what our parents taught us. That’s what we learned in medical school; we learned to take care of people and we showed up to work.
"I’m so proud of the healthcare workers that I worked with," he added, "because it’s important for the community to know we’re always going to be there for you. Even if you get sick again, despite your vaccination status, despite what your beliefs are, we’ll always be here for you."
On Tuesday, healthcare workers reminded the public to get back to your physicals, screenings, and colonoscopies. Make sure you are going for your routine checkups now that you are able to make those appointments.