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‘You’re Playing Russian Roulette With This Virus,’ Warns Doctor Treating COVID-19 Patients

A Chicago anesthesiologist shares his story from the Intensive Care Unit to warn people who aren't taking the pandemic seriously.

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As hospitals get busier with more coronavirus patients, a Chicago doctor is sharing his story to warn people who aren't taking the pandemic seriously.

"You’re playing Russian Roulette with this virus. Don't be falsely confident that you’re young and healthy and this is going to be a flu. You have no idea what it will be," says Dr. Cory Deburghgraeve, who works in the intensive care unit at the University of Illinois Hospital.

He has seen multiple patients die from the illness, and he is frustrated that some people still are not taking the virus's horrific effects seriously.

"They are kind of so panicked and out of breath," he said. "The normal person breathes 12-to-20 times per minute, they’re breathing about 40 breathes a minute so they are exhausted."

Patients who struggle to breath go on a ventilator to try to stay alive, but the process is not at all easy.

"When I have to go intubate the patient, we have to take that mask off because obviously I need access to the airway," says Dr. Deburghgraeve. "We’re next to the nuclear reactor because we really are right next to the source of all the viral particles."

Dr. Deburghgraeve says he wears several layers of personal protective equipment and his hospital checks on him after each shift – including his emotional well-being after intubating patients.

"I may be the last face they see or the voice they hear and I think that's going through a lot of patients minds is, 'Am I going to wake up from this?'" the doctor said. "Since they haven’t had family members or visitors there, they just want to say, 'Can someone tell my family what’s going on? And tell them I love them.'"

ICU staff call patients loved ones with updates, sometimes with bad news.

"I've been asked by lots of people out there, is it really as bad as people think, is it really as bad or is it kind of like a media stir, and I say, 'No. I think it's worse than people think,'" he said. "Because people aren’t inside these hospitals seeing what's going on."

Deburghgraeve is sharing images to illustrate his experiences on the front lines during the pandemic on his Instagram page, which can be found at corydeburg.

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