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‘For me, it is personal’: B.C. doctor makes heartfelt appeal after death of 3 COVID-19 patients

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A B.C. doctor is offering a glimpse of what it likes on the front lines during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Kevin McLeod works in the COVID-19 ward at North Vancouver’s Lions Gate Hospital. Last weekend, three of his patients died.

“People with COVID, they worsen very quickly,” McLeod said.

“So those deaths … people were on a little bit of oxygen, maybe two litres. I would look at them and think, you know, this person’s going to get through it and eight hours later they’re dead.”

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Most deaths involved elderly patients, but not all of them. Earlier this year, a woman in her early 50s waiting for a liver transplant passed away after contracting the coronavirus.

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“She was a mom,” he said. “She had parents and that was not somebody who would have died.”

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McLeod noted that the patient had a comorbidity, or underlying health condition in addition to COVID-19, but one that was curable.

“She’s not here now because of COVID,” he said.

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Beyond the heartbreak, the workload of the pandemic creates challenges, he says. Cancer biopsy results, for example, used to be routinely available the same day the test was taken. Now, it can take up to seven days for results, McLeod says.

“It’s a short enough delay that it doesn’t change the outcome,” he said. “But the outcome here — that extra time waiting — I think has a huge impact on the patient.”

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So how is the doctor doing?

“I’m doing OK. I think it’s very busy. I think being in the hospital for 40-plus days in a row sometimes, it’s a lot.”

His biggest worry is that hospitals will be overloaded. B.C. isn’t there yet, but it’s a reality in several U.S. states.

His biggest frustration, he says, is hearing people downplay the significance of COVID-19.

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“For me, it is personal, because I’ve seen people as they’ve passed away,” he said.

“A decision that you make as a young person choosing not to wear a mask or not being that fussed about this, it does have an impact to somebody else and it may not even be your family.”

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McLeod, a married father with school-aged children, won’t be with his family for Christmas. He’ll be spending the day in the COVID-19 ward.

He wants to remind people that behind all the daily COVID-19 statistics are real human beings.

“Bonnie Henry and Adrian Dix do a very good job, but they’re giving numbers, right? We sort of see these numbers. Numbers are different than the human in front of you.”