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Local trauma surgeon back home after volunteering in NYC ICU

Posted at 5:55 PM, Apr 30, 2020

BRONX, New York (KGTV)-- A San Diego trauma surgeon is back home after spending two weeks helping fight the coronavirus pandemic in hard-hit New York City.

Matthew Martin MD. knows a thing or two about the call of duty.

"I've done now, five deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan," Dr. Martin said.

The former Army doctor is now a trauma surgeon at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego. But for the last few weeks, he was at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx, New York, after getting a desperate call from a colleague.

"One of the things he said was, 'We are drowning, and no one is coming to help us,' and that's when I said, 'Well, I think I can come and help,'" Dr. Martin said.

He decided to volunteer his time and skills on the front lines of America's coronavirus epicenter. When he arrived at the Bronx hospital, Dr. Martin saw that the building was simply overrun.

"We're all nervous in that situation when you know that one break in your sterile protocol could mean you get infected," Dr. Martin said.

Every day, he said he saw at least fifty patients in the ICU. Many of them were his fellow healthcare workers suffering from the disease. The reality was, many left the hospital in body bags.

"Every day, you are seeing patients die," Dr. Martin said. "[They're] dying in the ICU, or dying on the ward from respiratory failure."

Despite the overwhelming sadness, Dr. Martin said he was impressed by the passion and commitment of his newly adopted team.

"It was actually very similar to a military deployment," Dr. Martin said. "You're with a small team, and they're focused on one mission and one objective."

After two weeks, he said that laser-focus objective was his greatest takeaway. On his last day, Dr. Martin's friend and colleague Sheldon Teperman MD thanked him for his service.

"Really, from the bottom of my heart, because this thing is sometimes just too hard, thank you," Dr. Temperman, Jacobi Medical's Trauma Medical Director, told Dr. Martin.

With no cure yet, Dr. Martin said the best treatment still is prevention.

"Keep doing what we are doing with social distancing, wearing masks, and we do not want to be New York City," Dr. Martin said.

After arriving in San Diego, Dr. Martin self-quarantined at a hotel for five days before returning home. He is now back working at the ICU at Scripps Mercy Hospital, San Diego.