COVID-19: Local doctor speaks on exhaustion and urges survivors to donate convalescent plasma

Exhausted doctors

LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - As the number of COVID-19 cases continue to surge in Southwest Louisiana...the strain from the virus has taken a physical and emotional toll on those providing life-saving care.

Reality has changed for many local doctors in our area and a recent Facebook post by Lake Charles Memorial Physician Gary Kohler is evident of that.

Like Kohler, many of his colleagues consider COVID-19 the fight of their careers--a fight they desperately want to win. However, many say they can’t deny the fact that they’re emotionally and physically exhausted.

“The patients are so much sicker than they were the first wave. The acute illness is much, much higher and it’s a mentally and physically exhausting battle,” said local pulmonologist Dr. Gary Kohler.

The reality of what’s happening can sometimes be overwhelming for the nurses and doctors on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis.

“We’ve had a little reprieve over the last several days. We’re still double-booked in most rooms. As of today, we’re down to 17 patients in the ICU. At one point we had 27 patients in the ICU and 16 rooms and the floor had 70 patients,” Kohler said.

Even before the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Southwest Louisiana, Dr. Kohler says at Lake Charles Memorial they prepared well in advance. However, suiting up every day to battle an invisible enemy with very real victims has posed some difficult challenges.

“We haven’t dealt with this before. I worked during the AIDS outbreak, H1N1 in 2009. This is much scarier than those were,” Kohler said. “There’s so much we don’t know about it but what we do know about it is that everything they told us at first is not true.”

Kohler says in the outpatient setting, people are getting multiple therapies so it’s hard to say what works and doesn’t work. Studies show that in this second wave 70 percent of patients exposed to the virus do fine. Out of the 30 percent that requires hospitalization, 5 percent end up on intensive care and ventilation.

“I can tell you in the intensive care unit, everybody wants Hydroxychloroquine but it does not work.”

However, Kohler says there is one glimmer of hope.

”Convalescent plasma..we’ve given it to almost 100 patients at this point. We do think it works, there are early studies that show it works. We need the publics’ help.”

He says it’s been very difficult to get convalescent plasma given the recent surge in cases. He says one donor could save four patients battling the virus.

Kohler added that he believes, as a state, there will more than likely be a third wave of the virus before moving into Phase 3 of reopening.

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