Dr. Michael Lamberta recalls his years at Saint Viator High School fondly. Among his favorite memories are his soccer teammates, especially when they traveled to Europe one summer and returned that fall to win the state championship. But he also recalls his teachers, including Fr. John Van Wiel, CSV, who taught him chemistry and helped foster in him a love of science and of problem solving.
Dr. Lamberta is drawing on all of those experiences now — his friends, family, teachers and education — as he works in emergency medicine at Maimonides Medical Center in the heart of Brooklyn. Each day, he reports to work, covered head to toe in personal protective equipment or PPE, where he and his colleagues presume almost all of the patients coming through their doors are COVID-19 positive.
“I have been overwhelmed by an outpouring of concern and support the last couple of weeks,” Lamberta said in a recent letter to family and friends. “I’d like to thank everyone for the thoughts and prayers that have come in my direction, and want to reassure you that I am well and continue to feel very fortunate to be among a group of compassionate, fearless, and hard-working providers.”
Their concern is real. The hospital and its triage tents, set up for the worst, have transformed into a “wartime” response, according to one doctor, where the number of “unbelievably sick” patients is relentless. They have been featured on network news stations and in multiple print publications, seeking to report the epicenter of the crisis. Yet, Lamberta stresses that he and the rest of his team have not lost sight of their calling, and treat every patient with compassion.
“As the lens of the mass media has zeroed-in its focus to the nuances of our work — public health considerations, provider safety, ventilator numbers and the obstacles we face in the context of stressed resources — I think it is safe to say that this is the craziest experience I have ever encountered in the ER,” Dr. Lamberta said. “That said, emergency medicine as a discipline thrives in cases of uncertainty, strives to resolve difficult decisions, and gracefully contorts itself to the most pressing needs of the hour, all while seeking to maintain the humanity for every patient.”
While Dr. Lamberta concurs that many stories in the media “conjure fear, existential anxiety, and the formidable unknown,” they do reflect the grim realities of his daily work. However, he gets through it, in part, he says, working alongside his colleagues, “humming the quiet poetry of hope amidst a raucous tragedy.”
In parting, Michael wanted to reassure people as much as he wanted to thank them.
“I am thankful for the many ways you all have contributed to my development as a family member, friend, relative, teacher, teammate, and physician,” he wrote. “If there is a silver-lining in all of this it would be an acute reminder about how everything/everyone is related in our world, and we have a decision at every moment to be grateful, giving, and compassionate.”