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Dr Joseph Varon, 58, has worked a whole year battling to save lives on the frontline. The self-proclaimed ‘Covid-ologist’ says he simply has not had time to stop as chief of staff at the United Memorial Medical Center (UMCC) in Houston, Texas.
Dr Varon said: “I am proud, but I am truly exhausted. Physically and emotionally exhausted.
“It’s been a battle every single day. It is like a never-ending story. People ask ‘how are you?’, but I have no idea!”
Dr Varon is functioning on just a few hours sleep a night, returning home from a shift at 11pm and waking up again at 5am.
Dr Varon continued: “If I were to turn off all my phones I don’t think I could sleep more than three hours.
“Even if I go home and go to bed at midnight, I get call after call and I’m constantly on the phone talking to my nurses on the COVID unit.”
The dedicated doctor estimates that his last proper day off was in February last year. He travelled to Orlando, Florida, to give a lecture and took his wife Sara, 55, out for dinner.
Dr Varon said: “It has been tough on the spouse and on my adult children. It has been tough for everybody.
“Before Covid I used to be outside the country lecturing 25 percent of my time, I used to travel all over the world, now zero. That is the one thing I miss.
Dr Varon made the news in November 2020 when a photograph went viral of him hugging a Covid patient whilst wearing PPE.
He said: “The Covid experience has taught me the good and bad of people. I have seen so many people that have been so nice with us, with my team.
“I get letters from all over the world – the hospital says I have fan mail every day.
“I was hoping to have a day off sometime over this weekend, but now I don’t know if I’m going to be able to because the number of cases are slowly trickling up.”
Last Wednesday, Texas lifted the rule preventing citizens from going to public places without a mask and allowed all businesses to reopen.
Dr Varon said: “Every time I get an admission of a patient I find out how they think they got it, and every single one has the same story: ‘I went to a place and wasn’t wearing a mask’.
“That frustration hasn’t changed.
“I have also been fighting a war not just against the virus, but also fighting against human stupidity, it is just unreal.
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“I’m being selfish. I really need a break and I cannot have a break unless people start doing the right thing!
“I say I’m going to call the Guinness World Record book, but I’m not doing it for a milestone or to be known.
“I have been able to do fully what I really enjoy the most which is to care for patients in an environment I feel very comfortable with.
“The most positive thing has been to see the people leave the hospital alive.”
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