NYC paramedic: ‘It’s an onslaught, wave after wave’


Last week I wrote about a NY Times video offering a front row seat to the coronavirus crisis as it was impacting one New York hospital. Things have become dramatically worse in New York since then.

This week a local news station in Florida interviewed a New York paramedic for a segment about what it looks like on the front lines of the worst outbreak in the United States. The segment that aired on WKMG in Orlando is only a couple of minutes long. Fortunately, the station also uploaded what appears to be the full interview with paramedic Mike Mena. What he describes is eye-opening.

“An average day in the New York City 911 system you will see around 3,000 to 4,300 assignments or calls a day throughout all of the five boroughs,” Mena said. He continued, “The busiest day of the year usually is New Year’s Eve where we’ll see about 5,000 assignments. Since about last Tuesday we have been breaking our records.

“We have done more calls last Tuesday than we did on 9/11.” He goes on to say the current average is about 7,000 calls a day, roughly double the normal volume.

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Describing what he sees at area hospitals, Mena said, “It’s pretty terrifying.” One of the things that scares him is that he sees people of all age groups who are critically ill, including people in their 30s. “It’s never ending. It’s an onslaught, wave after wave. It’s a miracle that we’re holding out this well,” he said.

Asked what the scariest thing he’d seen was, Mena thought of people who were barely able to breath: “These are folks with no serious past medical history, just flu symptoms, having oxygen saturation in the 70s, in the 60 percent. They are barely conscious using every aspect of their physical being to get a breath in…It’s horrifying.”

Despite the horror of it, Mena smiled when he described the “camaraderie” he has seen in the midst of the crisis. “My friend put it this way, Americans being Americans. We’re all pitching in doing the best that we can,” he said. “It kind of reminds me of 9/11,” he added.

On that point, it’s worth noting that New Yorkers really have been trying to let their front line health care workers know how much they appreciate them. This has been going on for a week, every night at 7 pm:

Stay strong, New York. The rest of America is rooting for you.

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