An Fire Department of New York paramedic has shared the personal impact of being an emergency responder during a pandemic.
As New York City has emerged as an international epicenter of the novel coronavirus, calls for medical help number daily in the thousands. Joshua Rodriguez, a paramedic from FDNY EMS Division 1/Station 4, is there to help. But the job is no easy task, especially when one call can involve entire households.
“I’m walking into a house, and I’m seeing three or four family members who are all sick. And it’s just me and my partner, and I know the next ambulance can be 10 or 15 minutes away because we’re all so strapped. Everyone is so busy," Rodriguez told New York TV station WNBC.
Rodriguez's job is treating people on the scene as well as deciding who is well enough to stay home and who should be hospitalized. The task can be stressful. Since New York City has seen upward of 10,000 fatalities from the virus since the crisis began, he's had to have some tough conversations.
“The hospitals aren’t allowing visitors, so now I have to treat this family member and I have the whole family there watching, worried, concerned, knowing that I have to you know… this virus is taking people’s lives," he said.
“We just try and be honest with them and let them know that this may be the last time that they see their family members," he added.
Rodriguez was infected with and has since recovered from the novel coronavirus — his symptoms included a fever, headache, and muscle aches, but no cough. However, the situation has led to significant changes in his personal life.
As an emergency responder, he shaved his head to prevent the virus from attaching to his hair and allow for easier wearing of an N-95 mask. His job has also drastically limited his social interactions with loved ones.
“I can’t go home and hang out with my friends, I can’t go home and see my family. I haven’t kissed my partner since this all started," he said. "It’s a lot of alone time when I get home, which is why I you know I pick up more shifts. I get to come to work and do what I love, I get to ... keep busy," he said.
Regardless, Rodriguez — and all emergency responders — will persevere through the crisis, he asserted. “We are getting through it," he concluded. “It’s hard, it’s taking a huge toll, but we’re getting through. ... And we’ll still be here, EMS will still be here, and no matter what we’ll keep coming back.”
Watch Rodriguez share his experience below.