JAs serve on the frontlines treating COVID-19 patients

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Julia Yuge, a nurse at New York University Langone Health. courtesy of Julia Yuge

Julia Yuge, a nurse at New York University Langone Health. courtesy of Julia Yuge

While treating COVID-19 patients on 12-hour shifts, three to four days per week and overtime from mid-March to May, Julia Yuge, an intensive care unit nurse at New York University Langone Health, called her mother, a nurse herself, several times to minimize the stress she’s felt.

“My mom’s a nurse so she’s the one that would help me — I guess I could vent to and she could understand and she could give me that motherly advice and love,” Yuge, a Yonsei, told the Nichi Bei Weekly by phone.
New York City was one of the virus hot spots early in the pandemic and one of the hardest hit areas in the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Website, New York City has 232,232 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with the total at 237,070.

Yuge’s experience as an ICU nurse treating COVID-19 patients in New York was initially “depressing,” as she saw so many deaths, but she “started to get (into) a groove and we started to get a little bit better understanding of what we can do.” She said her ICU team saw some patients improve, but others were on ventilators.

Yuge said her team had to “medically sedate and medically paralyze patients to keep them so that the ventilator could work and heal their lungs.”

While Yuge has since returned to her normal job as a cardiothoracic ICU nurse, what she witnessed “was something out of a nightmare, something I hope I never have to experience again.”

Jeff Fujimoto, a third-year internal medicine resident at UCLA, have been treating COVID-19 patients. photos by Brian Fung

Jeff Fujimoto, a third-year internal medicine resident at UCLA, told the Nichi Bei Weekly he treated COVID-19 patients on the hospital floor and in the ICU, as well as outpatients. The Yonsei said medical staff are particularly concerned about the hospital floor patients decompensating.

He said they are “finding that the COVID patients don’t come off the ventilators as quickly as others” who would need a ventilator for the flu or pneumonia.

Upon returning home from work, Fujimoto leaves his medical gown, gloves and other equipment near the front of his apartment, before washing up. To care for his mental health, he connects with other people through socially distanced boba hangouts, hikes and video chats.

Similarly, in New York, people have “outdoor dining and lots of events outside,” Yuge said.

While many people are growing weary as they continue to contend with the pandemic, Fujimoto noted that “vaccines actually take awhile on the order of a year or two to develop.”

Yuge anticipates that she will continue to see COVID-19 patients in the hospitals for years to come. “I don’t see it as something we’re going to eradicate anytime soon, but hopefully a vaccination can help.”

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