‘It starts to wear on you’: Military doctor in Winston-Salem shares pandemic experience


WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — For nearly two years, the healthcare battle has raged on against COVID-19, and nurses, doctors and hospital staff have not been spared from its hardships.  

On Wednesday, North Carolina hit a record number of hospitalizations with 4,098.  

Triad hospital leaders have stressed the impact they’re feeling not only because of the number of patients but with staff out because of COVID as well.  

Some of those frontline workers have been at the frontlines of other types of wars, serving our country. 

“You see a 35-year-old die of a vaccine-preventable illness in American in 2021-2022. It’s gut-wrenching,” Dr. Ryan Maves said. “It starts to wear on you…the needless suffering.” 

Maves is an infectious disease expert at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist.  

Before that, he was in the U.S. Navy and was stationed at the Nation Combat Hospital in Kandahar Afghanistan in 2021.  

He explained that the pandemic is a different battlefield and harder to fight even with the best technology.  

“In the wars in Afghanistan…if you arrived [at the hospital] with a pulse, you had about a 95% chance of surviving…If you arrived in the ICU with COVID and require intubation and ventilation, your survival is about 50%,” he said.

The patient count has increased six times from what the doctor saw before the omicron variant.  

At the combat base in Afghanistan, health officials had to make do with what they had.

In the U.S., equipment is available, but re-enforcements are hard to come by with the most recent surge.  

“On deployment, you are always down equipment. You are always having a finite number of operating rooms, of ICU beds. You were under constant pressure to maintain facilities overseas. If you did not have any beds, that affected where a combat patient would go,” Maves explained. “That concept of scarcity is not a concept we have to think about in medicine here in the US. But this is a constant churn of not enough staff, not enough space.”    

To help Maves and his team of nurses and doctors fight this pandemic, his plea is to get vaccinated and get boosted.  

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