Houston doctors on the frontlines of the COVID-19 war tell tales of grueling shifts, death and tragedy

HOUSTON – Dr. Gildardo Ceballos, a 20-year, veteran, internal medicine doc suits up in his personal protective equipment to begin yet another long, agonizing day in the war against COVID-19.

“I feel frustrated because I feel powerless because the patients, they die, despite all the hard work, all the medical treatment we give,” Ceballos said.

He has watched 15 of his COVID patients die since the middle of March and it is eating at him.

The most crushing for him were the deaths of 3 people from the same family — a father, a mother and their 40-year-old son — in a matter of days.

“It destroys my heart. It’s really hard talking to the rest of that family, every day, and they were so hoping to be hearing good news. It’s hard for me to be telling them, ‘they were dying, they were dying,‘” Ceballos said.

He is not alone. Not by a long shot.

All over the country, exhausted medical workers are giving everything they own in their souls to keep fighting this pandemic.

Dr. Rachele Williams is one of them.

She has worked with COVID patients all over Houston and in New Orleans.

“Seeing these patients that can’t come off of the ventilator. The pneumonia has affected their lungs. They feel they can’t breathe… and never leaving that hospital until you’re in a body bag,” Williams said.

In Richmond, Anthony Lundquist is a nurse and ICU Clinical Coordinator at Oakbend Medical Center, where they are currently treating 50 patients with COVID-19.

“The worst day, I was talking to a patient that was my age. I’m 30 years old and I was talking to him, telling him that we were going to get him over this. He was so young and we were talking just like friends and then he ended up passing away that evening,” Anthony said.

In Conroe, nurse practitioner Holly Benson is so dedicated and driven to saving lives, she left her husband and daughter for six weeks and traveled to New York to a hospital that was over-run with COVID patients. The hospital had a mobile morgue parked out front.

“I’ve seen the worst of the worst and it’s horrible what this disease can do to people. I left in tears so many days from that hospital in New York because of what it can do to people,” Benson said.

In Sugar Land, Jenn Gillen is a registered nurse working in the Med-Surg unit at Methodist Hospital. She says the toughest part of fighting this war with a deadly disease is feeling like she is fighting it all alone, without the help of the public because so many people are not following the rules.

“It’s so hard. It’s almost like a double shot to the heart because I’ve just struggled through the day, giving it everything I have and then we come home and we are met with people who don’t want to help us. They don’t want to continue fighting this virus like we are. I mean, come on. Wear a mask, stay out of crowds. How can we beat this thing if we don’t all work together,” Gillen said, shaking her head and squeezing her hands together.

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Emmy-winning investigative reporter, insanely competitive tennis player, skier, weightlifter, crazy rock & roll drummer (John Bonham is my hero). Husband to Veronica and loving cat father to Bella and Meemo.