'I’ve never seen anything so catastrophic.‘ N.J. medical workers confront the trauma coronavirus inflicted. - Health Professionals & Allied Employees

‘I’ve never seen anything so catastrophic.‘ N.J. medical workers confront the trauma coronavirus inflicted.

Taken from NJ.com


June 14, 2020

The flashbacks began as he sat at his kitchen table, coloring with his three young daughters.

He saw the dying man’s hand resting in his own. He heard the agonized voice of the patient’s daughter crying on a video call as she said her final goodbye. Then he witnessed the man’s death all over again.

Dr. Haney Mallemat could not shake the haunting images that ambushed him, weeks after the patient died of COVID-19 at Cooper University Hospital.

He put down his colored pencils and quietly got up from the table. He slipped into the living room while his girls went on coloring, unaware of his anguish. And there he broke down in tears.

“It definitely wasn’t the first (time I cried),” Mallemat, a critical care intensivist at the Camden hospital, told NJ Advance Media. “It was the first time that everything became overwhelming.

“The whole magnitude just hit at once … And everything snowballed into this massive realization of just how bad it had gotten.”

Mallemat is among the legions of doctors and nurses who face a reckoning as the coronavirus pandemic slows in New Jersey. They are confronting their own trauma now that they have time to process all the carnage they witnessed.

The patients with terror in their eyes as they gasped for breath. The eerie whoosh of ventilators in overflowing intensive care units. The people who died alone, with no one to comfort them.

Many medical workers are just beginning to experience the fallout, overwhelmed by burnout, anxiety and despair. The symptoms are emerging as they reconcile the emotions they compartmentalized while watching scores of patients die and colleagues fall ill.

Small reminders bring it all back when Mallemat, 44, is watching TV, reading his email or spending time with his kids.

“I’ve been there for so many people who have passed — more than I want to recount,” the Haddonfield resident said. “But this has just been nothing I’ve ever felt.”

As front line workers try to make sense of the past three months, their lives remain an amalgamation of relief, helplessness and quiet torment.

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