The lessons one UAB doctor learned while treating COVID-19 patients in NYC

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The state of Alabama has been fighting the coronavirus for three and a half months. Several of the doctors that treat patients in the Birmingham area made the brave decision to volunteer in NYC to help hospitals inundated with patients.

Dr. Gretchen Winter spent one month working in the intensive care unit of New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Hospital, where most of her patients tested positive for COVID-19.

“We’re working longer hours than we were meant to work, more shifts than me were meant to work, with more patients who are more ill,” Winter said.

Winter, an assistant professor with UAB’s division of pulmonary, allergy and critical care medicine, said many of her memories from working in New York are sad ones.

“I stood there as the patient said goodbye to his wife and kids over Facetime on a phone knowing he may never see them again,” she said.

Winter returned back to work at UAB in May. She said her 17 years of studying and training made the decision to work in the pandemic’s epicenter feel more like a calling.

“The chance that I spent all of these years studying critical care medicine, to be in the place that I was at the time, with the skill set I had accumulated at that time, it felt like it was my purpose,” she said. “It still does.”

During her time in New York, Winter worked 12-hour shifts for a month with almost no days off. She said after a tough few weeks, she’s learned it’s leaning on each other that gets you through the day.

“The only way to make it through is to check in on each other and love on each other and be there for each other,” she said.

Winter said that after seeing New York’s response to the virus, she hopes to see more people in Alabama wearing face masks and taking social distancing seriously.


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