Jun 3, 2020
Heroes on the front line: Dr. Narayana Lebaka
Around the world, health care providers are on the front line of the battle against the coronavirus.
They are struggling to treat a disease with no known treatment, one to which no human has natural immunity.
At Coverage, we are giving Massachusetts doctors, nurses, NPs, PAs and other hospital workers a chance to speak to you, our readers, in their own words. We asked that they share their simplest, most urgent lessons and messages as they face this new virus with no vaccine and no cure, a virus vulnerable only to our common human bravery, ingenuity and compassion.
I work as chief of hospital medicine at Baystate Noble Hospital, a small community hospital. When the pandemic hit the U.S., I thought my community and patient population were safe as we are in the middle of nowhere. Then I was on call one night, and we had a patient who came in with fever, short of breath. He quickly decompensated and was in urgent need of life support, so I had to contact his family. I came to find that this patient’s brother was put on life support a few hours before this, due to COVID. It was a tragic situation for the family as their two loved ones were in critical condition at the same time. It was quite challenging to communicate this hard truth to the family in a compassionate way.
Our small community hospital turned out to be a hot spot for COVID in Western Mass. overnight. As the chief, my biggest concern was to provide 24-hour coverage for COVID patients with a limited workforce and scarce resources. With the help of senior leadership, I reached out to community doctors and was able to get backup. We have been learning something new every day of the pandemic, and it made us more confident than ever that we can deal with other similar situations down the road.
It is easy to lose sight of hope when no cure or vaccine has risen to battle against the novel coronavirus, but if we push through this bleak reality together, we can end it. During my 20 years of experience, I learned that we might not have a solution for every problem, but being empathetic and providing the best possible care for patients goes a long way. Being on the front lines makes it often stressful to think about all the ways I am putting myself and my loved ones at risk, but seeing my patients having complete trust in me keeps me moving forward.
- Dr. Narayana Lebaka,
Chief of hospital medicine,
Baystate Noble Hospital