An image of a doctor in a Houston hospital hugging an elderly Covid-19 patient to comfort him is being widely shared on the internet and is getting a lot of praise.
The photo shows an elderly man in a hospital gown with his head buried in the arms of a doctor who is wearing full protective gear. The photograph was taken on Thanksgiving Day by Getty photographer Go Nakamura, who was covering how the festivities associated with this period had been marred by the pandemic.
The photo started circulating widely on social media over the weekend after Nakamura posted it on his personal Facebook page.
“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 wrote on Facebook.
The photographer told USA TODAY that he has visited the ICU at United Memorial Medical Center (UMMC) about 20 times to document “people suffering and dying” during the pandemic. Nakamura said the patient in the viral photo was clearly feeling “vulnerable” and “lonely” when he received an embrace from Dr Joseph Varon, the chief of staff at the hospital.
A Washington Post report said that Dr Varon had found the man out of his hospital bed, crying and seeking help.
“I want to be with my wife,” the frail patient reportedly told him.
“I am so glad the photo went viral because people are talking about what is really happening inside of hospitals,” Nakamura told The Washington Post.
The hospital also shared the image on its website and spoke about the doctor’s work during the pandemic.
“He has worked for the past 251 days straight taking care of COVID-19 patients,” the post said.
Dr Varon told local channel KHOU that with many patients “a gentle touch, just telling them they’re going to be ok kind of encourages them.”
“Because, in those units, trust me they get depressed. It’s like being in a jail. Trust me, that’s what it looks like,” he said, adding that he was working on “adrenaline”.
“Unfortunately, I can’t take any days off because there’s nobody else that will do what I’m doing,” Dr Varon said.
The physician told CNN that “America is going to see the darkest days in modern American medical history” over Christmas if the country didn’t change course fast. He said that the week around the festival of Thanksgiving had been extra tough, with the hospital recording more deaths.
“My nurses in the middle of the day, they will start crying, because they are getting so many patients, and it’s a never-ending story. When they finish finally getting a patient in, they get a phone call from the ER that there is another patient getting admitted,” he said.
The image prompted many reactions on social media:
If a picture could speak a thousand words! From compassion, kindness to the doctor’s humility, to what #COVID19 has done to us, this picture tells it all. We will get through this, together ❤️ https://t.co/VkN25bEIyN
— Shreya Elizabeth (@Shreya_Elle) December 1, 2020
I was really touched by your caring. Your act of kindness means so much to so many. You are a true human being. https://t.co/PfRNwpM8N9
— Linda (@jumpapony) December 1, 2020
Those who refuse to wear a mask lack the introspective ability to imagine themselves as being this ICU patient. https://t.co/Vls6q7iin2
— Baptiste Lacoste, PhD (@BaptisteLacost3) December 1, 2020
The two faces of COVID: the selfless and brave health care professional and the sick and scared patient. Empathy and vulnerability are not weaknesses – selfishness and arrogance are. #stopthespread https://t.co/yJHETJokeU
— Suzanne Chod (@smchod) December 1, 2020
What an amazing human being! Sending love and support you way!🩺❤️ https://t.co/P7UBEE9Cri
— Elaine (@Elaine74080002) December 1, 2020
— rochelle (@doctor_rochelle) November 30, 2020
I didn’t expect to cry this afternoon at the sight of this picture. Embodies the world’s pain, love, and frustration.
— LittleBirdD (@Littlechickadd) November 30, 2020
It kills me that many people still take this as a joke. 😞
— RIP Pops 🇲🇽 (@RealPJP) November 29, 2020
I started to cry, the medical professionals need empathy and a break. Seriously. Our senior citizens are getting sick from the youth wanting to party.
— Lorrie Morales (@FMoralesLM) November 29, 2020
I honestly don’t know how the medical professionals can handle the stress day in and day out. My heart goes out to you all,and thank you for being there.
— DR (@DeanFromCC) November 29, 2020
Such hard sad times…but things are gonna get better…#Imisshugs
— LaVawn Polamalu…#43GoSteelers!!🖤💛🖤💛 (@NicoleLavawn) November 30, 2020
Sometimes that’s the best medicine.
— Lonnie Thomas (@Lonnie2409) December 1, 2020
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