A personal journey from Michael Maron, the president and CEO of Holy Name Medical Center — the hospital that saw the first wave of New Jersey’s coronavirus outbreak. He tested positive for COVID-19 and infected his wife and two sons.
“That was horrifying for me. Guilt and burden that I’ll have to bear for the rest of my life,” he said. “I was asymptomatic. Never had a high temp. Never had any respiratory distress at all. But I was obviously positive.”
Maron got tested after what his staff observed.
“They said, You don’t seem right. You don’t seem right. You’re pushing yourself.’ And I said, ‘Look, I’m all right I’m just working long days. I’m not eating. I think it’s just stress and fatigue.’ And they were like, ‘No, we think it’s more,'” Maron said.
Maron and family quarantined at home for two weeks. The worst of it, he says, was extreme fatigue. They stayed in touch through tele-monitoring and followed doctors’ orders.
“We hydrated. We used the hydroxychloroquine regimen with zinc. That seemed to shorten and hasten our recovery. I think it did. I’ve been back at work now for a week and feeling good and strong,” he said.
He said the public can learn from his journey.
“This is a highly, highly contagious disease. There is no vaccine, so when you get sick you’re going to get sick. And the only way to prevent it is to stay apart. It’s the only thing we can do. So people need to take all those warnings very, very seriously – distance yourself, stay home, limit contact. It’s the only way,” he said.
Maron says Holy Name has 166 coronavirus patients as of Friday morning. It’s grieving the loss of 37 to the virus and is working to keep 41 patients alive on ventilators. The hospital has already expanded to care for patients in a storage facility workers converted.
“We’ve built now three new ICUs. We have three more coming on line this week. They’re all designed specifically to keep staff safe behind a Plexiglas shield. The room is negative pressure. The staff stays on the outside. So, all the IV pumps, the ventilators, the cardiac monitors are all on the outside,” he said.
Maron says looking behind this long health emergency, this pandemic should produce fundamental changes in society. Certainly in the hospital industry.
“This is my hope. This is my prayer. We can go one of two ways, right? Apathy can set it, which is normal human behavior these days, and within months maybe a year we forget. The pain is gone and we go back to how business used to be. That would be a catastrophe in my mind,” he said. “I think the severity of this crisis should wake us all up, that first off, every hospital that is operational and functioning is necessary. You know what, we are a lot better when we collaborate and support each other and work together rather than compete with each other on a business economic scale. The way we’ve operated for the last four decades should be gone and we should start thinking about a productive, more efficient way of how we’re going to operate for the four or five decades that are coming. And I think this is a great opportunity to do that.”
Words of wisdom from a man whose pandemic experience is both professional and personal.