The long pauses Dr. Robert Fuller takes between sentences allude to the severity of the situation he and his colleagues have found himself in, dealing with a public health epidemic of unprecedented proportions.
This man is exhausted.
And there is no end to the fight he’s found himself in the center of.
“These are uncharted waters that we’re in,” Dr. Fuller said, while sitting inside his home office just outside of Boston, Massachusetts.
For weeks now, this infectious disease specialist has been on the frontlines of the coronavirus outbreak. Dr. Fuller asked that the specific hospital he works for in Boston not be named but wants the public to understand the true depth and severity the COVID-19 outbreak is having on the doctors across the country.
“You basically have to operate on the assumption that everyone you come into contact with in the hall, the stairwell, even while getting your lunch, could have the virus,” Dr. Fuller said, just hours after having finished a 24-hour shift in the ICU.
“I can’t say we were adequately prepared for this, because we weren’t,” he added.
The number of patients who have tested positive at Dr. Fuller’s hospital has increased exponentially in the last few days. Last week, only one floor of this hospital in Boston was dedicated to patients who have tested positive for the virus. Now, three floors are filled with people needing care for COVID-19 symptoms.
Red tents sit outside some hospitals here in Boston as public health officials prepare for a likely surge in cases over the next few weeks. All the while healthcare workers are putting their own safety at risk.
“My biggest concern is that I’ve been exposed and that I’ve exposed my wife to this. I’ve dealt with patients that have tested positive. I know I’ve been exposed. You do your best to limit exposure. It’s something you always think about,” he added.
While Dr. Fuller says he’s frustrated by a lack of equipment inside his hospital, he’s more concerned that many in the public don’t seem to be taking the outbreak seriously.
“A lot of people are out and about in the community as if nothing has happened, that’s the scary thing,” he said.