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COVID-19 hero Juan Fitz was polling day’s biggest loss

OThe indisputable result of polling day was the death by COVID-19 of a esteemed and beloved emergency doctor who leaves two young children.

Dr Juan Fitz of Lubbock, Texas, fell ill in mid-October. He had been on a ventilator, fighting for his life as President Trump left a rally or rally, repeating a despicable and false claim that medics inflated the pandemic death toll to “get more money.” This baseless claim drew applause from largely unmasked supporters who followed his reckless example by ignoring simple precautions that could have saved tens of thousands of lives and could still save tens of thousands more.

In-person voting was underway across the country when Fitz, 67, died at Claremont Medical Center, the hospital where he had saved so many lives. He was one of eight lives lost to the virus in Lubbock County, along with 1,122 others nationwide on election day. He also leaves behind a wife, an adult daughter and a host of emergency medicine colleagues who held him in high regard.

“My specialty in emergency medicine just lost a leader, Dr. Juan Fitz, to COVID,” tweeted Dr. Esther Choo of Oregon, “He was an exceptional physician and leader in the field. , active at the Texas College of Emergency Physicians American College of Emergency Physicians.

She continued, “My colleagues and I will go for you every day until this thing is over, no matter what. As hospitals and intensive care units fill beyond their capacity, as we experience shortages of PPE and testing, and face heartbreaking losses like this.

In 2008, the American College of Emergency Physicians honored Fitz as a “hero of emergency medicine”. He had been there for 34 years in June, when the organization published an interview with him about the frontline fighting against COVID-19. He said he drew on his time in the military.

“My military history has led me to prepare for each patient as if I were going on patrol, taking as many precautions as possible,” he said.

I wake up every night around 3 a.m. with the worry that I got infected and brought her home to my immediate family.

– Dr Juan Fitz

His main concern was his relatives.

“I have two children at home, aged 5 years and 10 months. I wake up every night around 3 a.m. with the worry that I got infected and brought her home to my immediate family. There is also additional stress on the part of other family members. I am fortunate to have strong faith. “

He was asked what was particularly troubling about the pandemic.

“It’s the uncertainty of the symptoms,” he says. “So many patients have so many different symptoms like stroke or heart problems and test positive for the virus. There is no rhyme or reason. There are some who appear to have symptoms of COVID-19 but test negative, while others, we don’t presume to have contracted the virus, test positive. It is difficult not to have adequate equipment or tests. I am frustrated with those who do not understand this pandemic. “

He was also asked about the impact on his personal life.

“It was difficult. My partner is much younger than me and has no medical training, so the stress has been much higher. She always checks with ‘Dr. Google and read how I’m going to bring the virus home. I changed my way of practicing, not because of his concerns but because of mine. I absolutely don’t want to take it home so I had to adjust and start using scrubs and changing clothes before greeting my kids. I can’t talk about what happened [Emergency Department] because they don’t understand. Instead, I speak with my fellow doctors and veterans.

He added, “I see my son sad because he can’t go out to play or go to the park, but it brought me closer to my son and daughter. I spend as much time as possible with them.

The next question was what inspired him to keep fighting.

“We are emergency medicine. We are nonconformists, pioneers. As I tell my students and residents, “I am airborne, I am cavalry, I get to the heart of the matter and, challenged by the situation, I find ways to improve and resolve the issues. things. I always wanted to be a doctor and I love being an emergency doctor. “

He had a message for the patients.

“We’re here to take care of you! We are trained for the unknown, we are trained in chaos and how to control it. Emergency medicine is a state of controlled chaos. We are the Sherlock Holmes of medicine, ready for the unexpected. We take the sickest of the sick. We’re here for you 24/7/365. “

Then came the day in October when Fitz began to experience symptoms of COVID-19. He was at home and headed for the emergency room, this time as a patient. He went there because if his wife was leading him, the children should have come.

In my mind – and I’m sure his too – he was going to be okay.

– Christy Martinez-Garcia

“He didn’t want to scare his kids,” a friend named Christy Martinez-Garcia told The Daily Beast. “When he arrived he texted me. He said, ‘Hey, I fell with coronavirus. Keep me in prayer.’”

Martinez-Garcia is the editor of Latino Lubbock magazine. Fitz had written a column for it, titled “The Doctor Has Entered,” and she suggested that when he was released he would be able to do a first-hand report on obtaining COVID-19.

“In my mind – and I’m sure his was too – he was going to be okay,” Martinez-Garcia said. “But then he didn’t.

It quickly went from bad to worse to worse. Word spread among the many people who had worked with him, including Eddie Kirkpatrick, a retired firefighter who had spent five years as an emergency technician at Claremont Hospital, leaving before COVID- 129.

“I think it caught everyone off guard,” Kirkpatrick said, “You wouldn’t have thought he would get it, and when he got it he grabbed it with both hands.”

Fitz was soon on a ventilator in the ICU. An emergency room nurse texted Kirkpatrick on Tuesday to tell him that Fitz had passed away. Kirkpatrick then referred to Fitz as being everything a doctor should be.

Fitz was endlessly patient with medical students and residents. He would remain the image of calm in the gravest of emergencies even as his mind focused on whatever needed to be done. Kirkpatrick compared Fitz to a floating duck.

“The feet go 100 miles an hour underwater,” Kitpatirkc said. “But he would never let you see him.”

What Fitz let everyone see and feel was his compassion and his determination to do whatever he could. He was a person with COVID-19 who would have been happy if it had been him instead of someone else.

“He’s a super nice guy who tries to help people and he gets it,” Kirkpatrick said. “I’m telling you, he’d rather it be him.” He’s the kind of guy he was, he cares about people. Documents like him don’t come that often. “

Martinez-Garcia was heartbroken, feeling the loss for herself, her family and for the community he called mi gente, my people.

“He really exemplifies being a doc,” she said. “He died taking care of others. The hardest part is that he’s gone. He’s just gone.

She remembers a moment at a gala that Ftz brought her children to.

“I remember he kissed them,” she said. “He was a superhero for his children. And you know what, he was a superhero to me.

Fitz was also just fun to be there. Whether he was with his children or his wife or his friends or his emergency medicine teammates, he always brought joy.

“Her laugh will be missed,” Martinez-Garcia said. “Everything about Dr. Fitz will be missed. He always had a way to make things better.

She spoke about all frontline healthcare workers and the responsibility we all have to support them.

“They don’t think of themselves, they think of taking care of their patients,” she says. “We must help by masking ourselves and taking all the necessary precautions.”

One precaution that will be taken in Lubbock is to make an upcoming veterans parade virtual. The theme will be unity. There will be special recognition for Fitz.

“His service on the battlefield, then in the hospital,” she said.

She hopes her example will join that of all of our fallen heroes to teach a much needed lesson.

“We must be united,” she said.

But lately there are too many people who are all for themselves, failing to take even simple steps to save the lives of others even as they speak passionately about the American people. And President Trump encouraged them, saying all talk about COVID-19 was just a Democrats ploy.

In fact, Trump’s downplaying of danger was part of his political strategy to distract the electorate from more than 230,000 deaths and get them to focus on the economy.

A discouraging number of Americans were doing just that on Election Day even as Fitz became one of the last to die.

“He’s gone,” Martinez said. “It could have been avoided. I think that’s what makes me angry. We could still have it.

And it is certain that the future, regardless of the final vote count, is that Fitz’s young children will grow up without him.

“It’s just sad that they won’t see it,” she said.

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