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From job loss, to balancing work from home to the isolation of following stay-at-home orders, coronavirus has changed our everyday lives. WUSF is giving you a voice to share those experiences.

The Pandemic Year: Doctor Praises Health Workers For 'Phenomenal' Sacrifice

Dr. Devandra Amin of Clearwater contracted the virus in late March, when scientists and physicians knew very little about how to treat it. He recovered, and has helped care for COVID-19 patients ever since.
Stephanie Colombini
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Getting sick with COVID-19 last March was only the beginning of Dr. Devandra Amin's experience with the virus. He and his colleagues have spent the last year caring for patients amid multiple surges in cases, and with no clear answers on treatment.

Around this time last year, COVID-19 began forcing the nation to shut down. Just about everyone's life was disrupted. This week, we're listening to the voices of everyday Floridians who were impacted by the pandemic.

Today we check in with Devandra Amin. We first heard from the critical care doctor at BayCare's Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater last fall. He shared his experience getting COVID-19 last March just as the pandemic started shutting down much of Florida.

Amin described being a patient in his own ICU and how his colleagues helped him recover with little knowledge of how to tackle the virus. Now he tells us how life at the hospital has been since.

It’s been a long, hard several months with the waxing and waning of numbers. Just as you think things are getting better, unfortunately, people were very quick to relinquish their guard, maybe open up the economy too quickly, sometimes causing the secondary and then the third waves that we had — surges that we've had.

But we've learned how to cope with that. And certainly as a [BayCare] system, we've been able to cope with that very well in terms of managing the extra numbers. The difficulty has been that we've learned over the last year that a lot of the drugs we started with just really have no significant benefit, and may even be harmful.

So we're left with, basically, supportive care, oxygen, steroids and possibly the newer antivirals that might be of benefit. Remdesivir data was weak; probably convalescent plasma, also.

Unfortunately, a young man, probably about three or four months ago, was very sick. We moved very quickly to do ECMO, which is extra corporeal lung support, you basically have an artificial lung working for you while his own lungs were not working. Young, healthy, no other significant medical history, very sick, very quickly. Unfortunately, even after about two or three months, we were not able to help him. That was just such a horrible thing to see in a young patient.

We're all very vulnerable. We're all still very vulnerable. And it's just luck of the draw how things happen when you get through this illness.

You know, it's frustrating. There has been a significant toll, certainly internationally and nationally, the amount of burnout that we've seen is significant.

And I think everybody has done a phenomenal job sacrificing themselves, their bodies and spirits to taking care of people, which I think everybody does day in, day out. But it's particularly taxing when you know that you're dealing with a disease that can, if not kill you, certainly debilitate you for a significant amount of time.

It truly is, people who do this — specifically I'd say the nursing staff and the ancillary staff, or respiratory therapy — who are in the rooms for far longer than we are, it's just amazing how selfless they are in actually taking care of patients day in, day out.

Everybody has been overworked, overstressed. And they've just managed it beautifully. I mean, I think a lot of it's internalized, and we have to do better at helping people cope with that. But on the whole, I think the support has been very good.

We got vaccinated in early February or late January when we first had them available to us. I had the Pfizer vaccine and significant symptoms of fatigue and muscle aches and pains, just lack of energy the day after. Second vaccine, no trouble whatsoever, it was fine.

I think it's pretty much one day at a time right now. I think there's a level of optimism that we may be through, specifically as the numbers are going down. But I don't think we're letting down our guard at this point. You know, 95% is 95%, it’s not 100%. So even though the efficacy [of some vaccines] is great, there's still a risk of getting an infection as mild as it would be. And it's not so much your issue anymore, but you're transmitting it to somebody else.

It's going to be tough getting back to normal. And hopefully, as we get more and more vaccinated, that might become easier and safe.

Copyright 2021 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Stephanie Colombini joined WUSF Public Media in December 2016 as Producer of Florida Matters, WUSF’s public affairs show. She’s also a reporter for WUSF’s Health News Florida project.