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Jodhan Fine '21

Erik under the trees. Jodhan under Erik!

Being an ICU Director in a Pandemic

How COVID has effected Erik Kraai personally and professionally

I asked Erik Kraai how being director of a medical ICU during the COVID-19 affected him professionally, emotionally, and on a day-to-day basis, outside of work:

When asked about the emotional toll the pandemic has taken on him and his coworkers, Erik said, “It’s hard to separate [the emotional effect of COVID as someone in the ICU] from the overall anxiety of the whole thing that we’re all going through. I’ve definitely had some terrible terrible cases of people that got sick and died in the ICU, which is not uncommon. Probably about 20 percent of patients that come into the ICU die and so we’re not strangers at all to people dying. What was really new is that quite regularly we had three or four members of the same family in the ICU and that is something I never experienced before, having to tell someone that’s already sick with COVID that their mom just died of COVID down the hall. I think that was a big added stress.The other thing that’s different is we are not used to having our own health be at risk from going to work. I mean there’s always been certain diseases like tuberculosis where you have to wear PPE and stuff, but never like this where every patient you’re taking care of poses a health risk to yourself; and then it’s compounded by so much uncertainty about how risky was it and how can we best mitigate that risk. Is the PPE wearing effective? And so that stress has gotten better as we’ve gained more knowledge and feel safer at work. Beginning with all that uncertainty, I felt like someone with OCD that has to wash their hands every 10 minutes. Leaving the hospital I would completely change and wash my hands like 4 times. I’d come home, I’d put my clothes straight into the washer, I’d go straight into the shower. All that was very strange and I think we’ve learned enough to know that some of that was probably more than necessary. And then part of my job is administrative so I do a fair amount of meetings and all that kind of stuff that now I do a lot of on Zoom which just like for all of us and you for school is strange and hard to get used to in some ways. In some ways good because it’s a little more efficient but also sort of dystopic and disturbing.”

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