What It’s Like in a New York City ICU Right Now
A Q&A with a critical care cardiologist on the front lines of the pandemic
New York City is considered the epicenter of the ongoing coronavirus epidemic in the United States, though there are early signs the situation is improving. Dr. Jennifer Haythe, MD is a critical care cardiologist at Columbia University Center and one of the many health care professionals combatting Covid-19 on the front lines. Only a few weeks ago, doctors realized that the virus can also cause heart problems, and these symptoms have kept Haythe and her colleagues busy. She spoke with Medium about treating people with Covid-19 in the intensive care unit (ICU) — and why she’s also worried about the patients she’s not seeing at the hospital.
Medium: What’s the experience like in the ICU now?
Dr. Haythe: All of the patients right now in the cardiac intensive care unit, for the most part, are Covid-19 patients and not the typical cardiac patients that we would normally have. People [on my team] are rotating for one week, including the weekend, and then they get a week off, then they come back for a week. And then in the interim week, we do all of our televisits and support our outpatient using telemedicine. Most of the people in the ICU are intubated, some in kidney failure and on dialysis or supportive care. Sometimes there are four patients in a room on ventilators.
What kinds of heart-related issues are you seeing among people with Covid-19?
One thing that has emerged is myocarditis, which is a condition that we see with other viruses. Basically it’s an inflammation of the heart muscle, and these people develop a form of heart dysfunction that’s probably directly related to the virus itself. Unfortunately, it’s a little bit hard to acquire data because we would normally biopsy these people who present with myocarditis, and we are avoiding unnecessary procedures.