Lisa Kilfeather normally works on the administrative side of things at the morgue at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center.
But there are so many bodies coming in, she was enlisted to help move them. His small team works seven days a week to treat and examine the many victims of COVID-19.
“We are physically exhausted. We are mentally exhausted, ”she says.
She hasn’t seen her daughter in three weeks – too worried that she might infect her because she works so closely with the bodies of people who have died from the virus.
The functioning of the team has radically changed. Families can no longer go to the morgue to say goodbye. Lisa therefore had to be creative. Yesterday she made a FaceTime call with a woman so that she could see the body and say goodbye.
“I first let her see me so I could explain what she was going to see. We cannot keep the bodies as we normally do with the sheets. It was in a body bag and you see the face. was difficult. I’m not going to lie, I cried. It was hard.
“But if we could do at least one thing to make it easier for them, that’s what we’re going to do, no matter how crazy our day is and how much work we have to do. “
“We will do our best for this family. “
Pathologist Dr. Alex Williamson, who works alongside Lisa, says autopsies on COVID-19 patients are essential to understanding the virus and, in the long run, saving lives.
He and the team are under pressure. “I really admire our front-line colleagues who care for patients arriving with COVID-19.
“They test them, treat them. But I think people should also realize that there is another front in this war and that is the front with the dead. “
He, like so many others on the front lines of this crisis, is learning on the job.
“What makes this scary for all of us is that we still don’t really know what COVID-19 is doing to us. We believe and it is a fair assessment, that it is mainly a pulmonary pathology.
“They are having trouble breathing and are short of breath and you see the need for ventilators. Respiratory pathology therefore plays an important role in this disease. But that may not be all. “
So far, he has performed two autopsies and both patients have pre-existing health conditions. But it’s only at the start of this learning curve and it’s steep.
He says pathologists around the world must examine as many COVID-19 victims as possible in the coming weeks.
Post-mortem assistant Devon Betts says they check themselves every day to make sure they are doing well emotionally. They work non-stop and had to build an additional morgue to accommodate the dead.
Dealing with bereaved families was particularly demanding. It’s always difficult to work with families right now. But even more so now when they are not able to see their loved ones in their last moments.
They are brave, kind and dedicated people who face an incredible amount of stress. Their fear is that their work is about to become even more difficult, while New York awaits the peak of this terrible pandemic.