Professional photographers always hope that they’ll be able to capture a “perfect” image one day – one that’s both beautiful and tragic, heartbreaking and thought-provoking. Few ever manage to do that but on this Thanksgiving, photographer Go Nakamura definitely succeeded.
The photographer had been at different ICUs in Houston, Texas some 20 times this fall, capturing the horrific images that doctors, nurses, and patients have to live through. On Thanksgiving, however, he managed to capture something truly beautiful – a photo of a distraught elderly man, burying his head in the chest of an ICU doctor, himself fully covered in personal protective equipment (PPE).
Go Nakamura identified the ICU doctor as Dr. Joseph Varon in his Facebook post and shared that “I am grateful to witness a wonderful moment and I thank all the medical staffs for their hard work even during the holiday season,”.
Nakamura shared that he had been observing Varon at the United Memorial Medical Center in Houston for a while together with his staff and that the good doctor had been at work for over 250 straight days. Nakamura also said that Varon was always kind and cheerful toward his patients and that he was always striving to get their spirits up, regardless of whether he was at the end of a 16-hour shift or he was just coming in.
As for the elderly man who was giving thanks to Varon in that heartwarming moment, Nakamura said that the man had initially mistaken the photographer for a doctor and that he was feeling overly “vulnerable and lonely.” So, when the doctor and nurses arrived at the scene to assist the old man, he immediately collapsed in the embrace of his doctor.
But while Joseph Varon is incredibly giving and selfless with his patients, he shows a much tougher demeanor. In front of CNN, doctor Varon said that “America is going to see the darkest days in modern American medical history” if the nation doesn’t “do things right” in the coming weeks.
“My hospital is full,” Varon continued. “I just opened two new wings so that I can accommodate for the next few days because I know that a lot of people are going to get sick after Thanksgiving.”
And given how the U.S. continues breaking new Covid-19 records on a daily basis, the evidence seems to support doctor Varon’s prediction. And in addition to the death toll the pandemic is taking, Varon also spoke about its emotional toll on the doctors and nurses he works with.
“My nurses in the middle of the day, they will start crying … When they finish finally getting a patient in, they get a phone call from the ER that there is another patient that is being admitted,” he said. “How have I done it? I don’t know. I’m running out of fumes.”
With the Trump administration doing virtually nothing with the Senate on vacation, and with the new administration still months away, Varon’s fears seem very justified.
The one hope many people hang on to these days are the upcoming vaccines developed by laboratories like Moderna, BioNTech, Pfizer, the University of Oxford, AstraZeneca, and others. But, as many experts warn there are still months and potentially more than a year before the production and distribution of these vaccines starts turning the tide of the battle.
In the meantime, all the rest of us can do is try to keep ourselves, our families, and everyone else safe by practicing social distancing, wearing masks, and following all the other CDC guidelines we have at our disposal.