MultiCare ICU doctor shares stories from the pandemic

SPOKANE, Wash. — With things sort of returning to normal, it’s easy to forget that we’re still in the middle of a pandemic.

We know the real key to getting back to where we left off is getting enough people vaccinated. If you’re on the fence, these stories from an ICU doctor may change your mind. He says it’s changed his life in more ways than he could have ever imagined.

“I don’t think any of us are going to walk out the other side the same person as we were in 2019,” said Dr. Benjamin Arthurs of MultiCare.

Since the start of this pandemic, more than 5,000 people in Washington have died from COVID-19.

But it is the stories behind those numbers that stick in Arthurs’ mind.

“That’s only a scratch of the surface of what patients and families have gone through,” said Arthurs.

Dr. Arthurs works in the Intensive Care Unit at MultiCare Valley Hospital.

“I’ve been a doctor since 2012,” said Arthurs, “so almost a decade, now.”

Never in his almost 10 years of working in medicine has he ever experienced anything quite like this.

“We see people with multiple medical problems and in their 70s and 80s who come into our ICU for lots of reasons but we saw people on deaths doorstep who were in their 40s and 50s last summer,” said Arthurs.

Young adults with no underlying illnesses are now fighting to stay alive.

“Those were the first moments where it was a gut check, because that’s not far away from me in terms of age, and I could people picture… the people around me and my family being in that same circumstance,” said Arthurs.

It wasn’t long before picturing it became a reality, when one of his colleagues — an ICU nurse — landed in the Intensive Care Unit herself.

“That was incredibly emotional for everybody in our hospital to see, and it just hits really close to home,” said Arthurs.

That nurse luckily survived, but Dr. Arthurs says that wasn’t always the case.

“As an ICU doctor, one of the things I do in my career is I see people in their last moments,” said Arthurs.

Moments typically spent surrounded by loved ones have been replaced by phone screens and virtual goodbyes.

“We’ve never had anything like this in medicine, where we haven’t had those precious moments with people at bedside, and that has been agonizing for our staff to deal with,” said Arthurs.

To some, 5,000 might just be a number. For Dr. Arthurs, it’s a reminder of just how truly precious life is.