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As I photographed people in COVID-19 intensive care units earlier this year, I was protected by four sets of plastic: glasses, goggles, face shield and viewfinder. But there is no escape from the pain that it takes.
I recently captured images for a Times article about a last resort COVID treatment called ECMO, which includes medical care for coronavirus patients and their caregivers at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif. Professionals were documented. Families had allowed me to share in the darkest moments. of their life.
I had the privilege of visiting these holy places. As a journalist, I feel it is my responsibility to have emotional bandwidth with people in those moments that most of society cannot handle. Despite safety guidelines that advise against spending long periods inside ICU rooms, I spent hours with each patient, an extended amount of time to get a sense of the person and be able to unfold the emotional spectrum of moments. Spent.
Verbal conversations help me connect with the people I photograph. On this assignment, some people were not awake or could not speak, and the most powerful connection often remained silent.
I would stand next to the bed of 25-year-old Alfred Sablan, and imagine the sound of his voice, trying to understand the gentle manner his mother described. I would lean on the bed of David Gutierrez, 62, a physician who had become a patient himself, and reminded him of who I was. He would look back, unable to respond with words, but I felt our connection over Classic Rock playing on his iPad.
From time to time, a staff member will enter to check on Mr. Sablan or Dr. Gutierrez. “Are you okay?” Asked a nurse when she knocked on the door of Dr. Gutierrez’s room. He nodded “Yeah.”
In the midst of all the suffering, there were memories of grace.