Gary Branfman, MD

Gary Branfman, MD

Thirty-five percent of those infected with SARS-CoV-2, commonly referred to as COVID-19, have no symptoms. My wife Tracy and I were not so fortunate.

We respected social distancing and wore highly effective face masks properly.

At a local hospital, where 15 nurses and several doctors had tested positive for COVID, I was asked to see a nonagenarian with sepsis secondary to an injured infected hand with an abscess and bone involvement.

An advantage of being old is that I am no longer required to be on-call. This fact is superseded by a prayer ornately displayed on my wall. It was written by Rabbi, physician, philosopher, scholar and all-around-cool-guy Moses Maimonides.

When reciting this prayer, I ask God to “Inspire me with love for my art and for Thy creatures. Support me in this great task so that it may benefit mankind.”

So, off I dove into Covid-infested waters.

When I encounter a new patient, I sit on the edge of the bed and chat. What us doctors lack in knowledge and skill we can make up for in bedside manner.

I learned that my patient bravely fought in the Korean Conflict, WWII, and was at Hiroshima shortly after the bombing. Despite life-long radiation-related health problems, he made it to 93. He was sharp, witty, and grateful for my presence. If I spoke loudly enough, he could hear my side of the conversation.

Off we went to surgery. I will spare you the details to protect the squeamish. He is doing quite well minus a portion of his hand. Throughout his hospitalization, the patient was protected and remains Covid-Free at 93.

A few days later, me first and then my wife developed respiratory symptoms, muscle aches, and fatigue. We tested COVID (+). We are both considered “high risk.” Tracy uses inhalers for chronic asthma. I am over 65 with high blood pressure and a frightening family history of heart disease.

Never did Tracy or I feel like we were dying. The respiratory symptoms were like a mild flu. The muscle aches and fatigue were annoyingly reminiscent of Mononucleosis and lingered on for way too long.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, estimates the fatality rate among Americans with COVID-19 is 0.3% with a death rate of 0.05% among people younger than 50.

A deadly decision made by the governors of New York and New Jersey to have COVID-19 patients sent to nursing homes explains the extremely high fatalities in these cities.

In New York City with a population of 8.5 million, there have been 23,000 COVID-related deaths. In Israel, also with a population of 8.5 million and extremely high population densities in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, there have been less than 400 deaths.

Given Florida’s high percentage of elderly retirees, it was both sad and reasonable to expect high fatality rates. Florida’s policy of separating elderly people with COVID-19 saved many lives. My 90-year-old uncle in Florida is barely “hanging on” with his COVID-19.

Please do not accuse me of being flippant or not taking the pandemic seriously. It is dreadful. Medical facilities and personnel are overwhelmed. People are dying.

As of July 15, 3,432 people who tested positive for COVID-19 in Texas have died, and the number continues to rise. During the same period, 3,516 Texans have died from the flu. The mortality rate in children is significantly higher in non-COVID respiratory illness. To add ignorant insult to injury, in Texas, vaping has resulted in 250 cases of severe lung disease with a median age of 22 years. Almost all were hospitalized with many requiring intensive care.

Before you contract COVID-19, eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, do not vape or smoke cigarettes and do not become obese. If you adhere to these simple recommendations, it is highly unlikely that COVID will kill you.

This is not a debate. You are welcome to disagree and I respect your opinion.

I strongly suspect that all of us have been or will be exposed to COVID-19. The lucky ones will be asymptomatic. Others will be extremely ill. Some will die.

The present closures are simply delaying the inevitable and perpetuating avoidable hardship.

Open the schools. Open the stores.

Continue to follow the recommendations of the medical community and the guidelines dictated by your local government. Obey social distancing, frequent hand washing and the proper wearing and care of face-masks.

If you are high risk or high anxiety, stay hunkered-down at home until a vaccine is available.

Thank God for H‑E‑B home delivery and Netflix.

Gary S. Branfman, MD, FACS, is the medical director of The Victoria Plastic Surgery Center.

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(3) comments

Allen T Coffey

Gary, after all you and your wife went through, you just couldn't avoid the Trumpian/Libertarian plug. Wow.

Rick Dockery

He told an honest account of his experience. I’m sorry it didn’t fit your narrative.

Matilda Jane

Radiation poisoning has the same symptoms as Covid and makes the blood coagulate, so i understand.

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