MOSCOW – As he strides down the sidewalk outside Moscow's Filatov Hospital in blue jeans and garish crimson shoes, Dr. Osman Osmanov shows no signs of the rigors he's just been through.
But behind the veneer of calm is a yearning for relief from countless days of laboring to save the lives of the stream of coronavirus victims who come into the hospital on gurneys, frightened and struggling to breathe.
“Frankly speaking, I just want to be in silence for a couple of days. I would like to go somewhere in the mountains where there is no cell phone signal, so I can sit quietly and have some air," the 40-year-old intensive care physician told The Associated Press at the end of yet another long shift at the epicenter of Russia's coronavirus outbreak.
He smiles hesitantly when he expresses the wish, as if confessing a secret.
Moscow accounts for about half of all of Russia's 335,000 coronavirus cases and 3,288 deaths, a deluge that strains the city's hospitals and has forced Osmanov to to work every day for the past two months, sometimes for 24 hours at a time.
The demands are intense; the rewards are gratifying.
“When a patient starts suffocating, you should calm him down. People are just scared," he said. “If you come and give him some oxygen, put him in a prone position, the situation changes right in front of your eyes."
“Sometimes all you need is to calm down a patient, and then he feels much better,” Osmanov said.
In the early days of the outbreak, he said, he watched the crisis unfold with some scientific detachment.
“At first, it was interesting, of course. Everyone took it as something new," he said. “I had an impression at first, that we were fighting an invisible enemy.”
Now, after weeks of seemingly endless work, he is struggling to remain stoic.
“I am not at the end of my rope," he said, “but I feel tired.”
There is no end in sight for Osmanov's punishing workload. Although new case counts have begun falling, to 9,434 on Saturday, down from more than 10,000 a day last week, Russia on Friday recorded its highest one-day death toll of 150.
“The current situation doesn’t allow" for rest, he said. “So we’re just hoping that soon it will all end, we will win and it will all be fine.”