It’s a scenario that has played out countless times in intensive care units around the world: a healthcare worker guiding a seriously ill COVID-19 patient in his last moments as family members watch him through a mobile device.
“We hear numbers of 20 deaths per day, 30 deaths per day and it’s very easy to get numb to those numbers,” Dr. Neeja Bakshi said in an interview with Global News.
“But each of those deaths is a person with a history and a family.”
In an effort to restore some humanity to the staggering number of deaths in Alberta, the Edmonton physician who works in the internal medicine ward at Royal Alexandra Hospital recounted that he sat with a 75-year-old woman as she died.
“Hi Jane. This is Dr. Bakshi calling from Edmonton. I’m not sure if he knows, but his mother Anne was admitted to the COVID ward about 2 hours ago.” Bakshi wrote on Twitter. (Scroll down to see more tweets)
“I’m calling her because she’s not okay and she probably won’t make it through the day.”
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The names in her story are fictitious to protect the family’s privacy.
“Deafening silence… followed by a bone-chilling screech…. tears … gasp for air trying to form words … phone clicks. Five minutes pass and I call again, ”wrote Bakshi.
Through her tears, Jane responds: Yes. I’m so sorry I hung up on you. I was shocked. I didn’t even know she wasn’t okay, I spoke to my mom two days ago.
“I’m in British Columbia. I won’t be in time, am I?”
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Dr. Bakshi went to explain how the hospital arranged for an iPad to be brought to her so that the daughter could say goodbye to her mother. Before calling her daughter, the patient insisted on wearing lipstick.
“She was so insistent that she needed to look good when she died. It seemed very dignified to me, ”Bakshi said.
“You could tell that he had accepted what was happening. So I gave her her lipstick. She put on her lipstick and we got her ready to talk to her daughter. “
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Bakshi said the mother and daughter had difficulty hearing each other because the high-flow oxygen machines in the room are noisy and the mother was wearing an oxygen mask.
The daughter asked the doctor to sit with her mother while she died. While it is not always possible for staff to do so when asked due to the need to be with other patients, Bakshi said that in this case he was able to stay in the room.
Bakshi said she sat with the patient and her daughter on the iPad in silence for 30 minutes while the woman passed away.
“It was a very intimate moment. I don’t know how to explain what it feels like to hold a family member on a Zoom screen while their loved one is passing away. This is a very strange sensation. You feel close to family at that moment. But you also feel very distant. “
“As a doctor or nurse who does that, you are the conduit for love between those two parties and it is a great responsibility.”
This week, the province announced an additional 95 deaths (reported Monday through Thursday) related to COVID-19.
On Wednesday alone, Alberta reported 34 deaths, which is among the highest ever reported in a single day.
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More than 2,700 people have died from COVID-19 in Alberta since the start of the pandemic and 483 of those deaths in the past 120 days, according to Alberta government statistics.
Below is a collection of tweets from Bakshi:
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