HOUSTON — Three Houston pulmonologists on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19 are sharing their experiences treating coronavirus patients in intensive care units.
"This is not a hoax, this is the real thing," Dr. Dileep Puppala said.
Puppala, along with Dr. Harman Kular and Dr. Jesse Onyenekwe are part of a team of seven doctors from Houston Pulmonary, Sleep and Allergy Associates. They're treating 83 COVID-19 patients at HCA's North Cypress Hospital, Tomball Hospital and Methodist Willowbrook.
"Somebody gets better, then two more people come in worse. You're having this constant revolving door of sick patients coming in," Onyenekwe said.
COVID-19 is surging in the Houston area. The cases started spiking about four weeks ago and it hasn't slowed. They're seeing sicker patients taking longer to recover.
"I've seen people who came in well and who ended up doing bad," Onyenekwe said.
"It's definitely not like a common cold or the common flu," Puppala said.
COVID-19 can affect nearly every organ in the body. Doctors are even seeing neurological impacts. What's most concerning is how contagious the virus appears to be.
"As soon as we go home, we change in our garage, we're taking showers before touching anything, you're spraying down your car, just doing everything you can to prevent the spread," Onyenekwe said.
But sometimes, it's not enough. Onyenekwe tested positive in June. The doctors at risk every day.
"I'm socially distancing from my newborn which is really a tough thing," Kular said.
They're seeing patients more than their own families, and it takes a toll.
"There's no end in sight where we know we just have to make it one more week or one more month," Kular said. "We just don't know."
It's why doctors everywhere are pleading with the public to do their part and wear a mask, social distance and wash their hands.
"We just want the community to put us in a position to be successful for them and to do what's responsible," Kular said.
It's the least all of us could do for the men and women sacrificing so much.