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This is one in a series of reports from hospitals responding to the Covid-19 pandemic.

When he arrived at the bedside, the emergency physician found a problem he could only half-solve. He could check the patient’s oxygen level and listen to her breathing. He could evaluate whether she needed to be put on a ventilator. But he couldn’t bring back the family member she’d just lost to Covid-19, nor could he promise she would be fine now that her own coronavirus symptoms were worsening.

During that same shift in mid-April, the Brigham and Women’s Hospital doctor saw two patients in that situation: Both grieving for a loved one, both worried they would die of the same disease. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Boston hospital has been full of such stories. As hospitals go, it isn’t the hardest hit. Its leaders prepared to ration ventilators and ICU beds if they needed to, but even while accepting other hospital’s intubated patients, it hasn’t run out of equipment or space.

Even so, the scenes inside have been wrenching. At the entrance, family members of elderly patients have been told, “No visitors.” Fearing shortages of protective gear, leaders have kept masks and gowns under lock and key, sparking worries among nurses that they wouldn’t get what they need. When a coronavirus patient gets well enough to leave, the workers’ cheers are so loud you can hear them through walls.

Craig Walker’s photos perfectly capture those moments of tension and relief. Whether portraying an assistant working in her winter coat at the drive-by testing site, or a respiratory therapist having a conversation through a door so she doesn’t have to suit up and go into an infected patient’s room, the images allow you to enter their worlds, if only for an instant — and to better understand the new one we’ve all found ourselves inhabiting.

Brigham and Women's Covid
Medical assistant Abigail Libman (left) and nurse Sarah McCafferty wait for a patient at a drive-through testing site set up in the hospital’s ambulance bay. Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe/STAT
Brigham and Women's Covid
Lourdes Eden and other employees use social distancing markers while waiting in line for donated salads. Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe/STAT
Brigham and Women's Covid
Cards decorate a window in the Covid-19 ICU, located on one floor of the Brigham’s cardiovascular center, which was converted into a dedicated Covid-19 hospital. Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe/STAT
Brigham and Women's Covid
Sarah Miller (left) and Allison Trzaskos rest in a family room that has been turned into a break room in the Covid-19 unit. Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe/STAT
Brigham and Women's Covid
Charge nurse Isabelle Shaw (left) talks with nursing director Margaret Higgins in the Covid-19 ICU. Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe/STAT
Brigham and Women's Covid
Nurse Natasha Cacciatore works in a patient room in the ICU. Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe/STAT
Brigham and Women's Covid
Staff members store their personal protective equipment in paper bags so it can be reused. Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe/STAT
Brigham and Women's Covid
Medical assistant Abigail Libman swabs a patient in the drive-through testing area. Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe/STAT
Brigham and Women's Covid
Medical assistant Portia Williams performs administrative work in the drive-through testing area. Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe/STAT
Brigham and Women's Covid
A tent was set up to provide emergency care for non-Covid-19 patients, to keep them separate from infected patients. Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe/STAT
Brigham and Women's Hospital
Respiratory therapist Angelika MacClellan (left) talks with nurse Natasha Cacciatore through a patient’s door. (Note: Photo has been edited to remove patient information.) Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe/STAT
  • The photo of PPE stored in paper bags for re-use – perfectly captures the absurd inadequacy of the US response to the pandemic, especially the criminal incompetence of the Federal government.

    • The absurdity is medical workers aren’t using re-usable equipment, but are expected to re-use it.

      3M make re-usble full face masks with integrated face sheilds and offers “P95” (not “N95”) organic vapor filters for them. As far as I know,, those masks aren’t certified for medical use. Why is that? They seem to offer the same protection?

    • Sorry, meant to quote the model numbers; I was talking about the 3M 6800/6900 masks. They seem to be much more useful in a pandemic.

      Nitril gloves and Tyveck suits aren’t hard to come by.

  • Thank you Eric for this glimpse of reality. Y gracias a todas las enfermeras, médicos y otros trabajadores que arriesgáis vuestra vidas todos los días. Como todo el mundo, me siento profundamente agradecido. Que Dios os proteja! (Y que lo haga también el gobierno, que ha sido tan lento con el PPE!)

  • Sending my gratitude to all of the nurses, aids and doctors putting their lives at risk as they work on the frontlines at BWH and everywhere. You al at BWH took great care of my dear husband during many stays, and you taught me a lot for his care at home. The strength of spirit I saw in you all will carry you through. My husband Norman’s kind spirit is with you protecting you as you forge on in this battle. Stay strong.

  • My profound gratitude to everyone at BW/DFCI–You have taken care of me, saved my life multiple times through multiple emergencies, relieved me of pain over the years, reassured me with your skill and kindness, enabled me to live to reach this moment. I send my hopes for your safety, protection, health, and strength. I remember when BWH was just the Peter Bent Brigham building, still there, and I first became a patient… My heart is with you all–amazing physicians and nurses, respiratory therapists, admins, clerical workers, volunteers, custodians, kitchen staff–all the worker bees, all the helpers, as Mister Rogers once said: “When you’re scared, look for the helpers.” You are true healers, and I am humbled by your dedication, resilience, competence, bravery, and compassion. Be safe, stay well, take care…

  • please pray for them they are extremely important to me now and many years ago when I re’cd a life saving lung transplant at Columbia Presbyterian hospital ; although I live in NC under Duke care I have written to my DR and her assistant almost every month for the last 5 years since I moved to say thank you ; I am around 40 to 50 cards now and still believe it is not enough so I have written to her 3 times this past month to stay safe and sent a pizza donation through a 401c non profit to deliver to hospital ; today I will pray again too; thanks

  • Keeping all first line health care workers and their families in my prayers for that “rock solid wall of protection” against the virus. God Bless.

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