A doctor working in the world’s leading coronavirus hotspot has handed her family end of life wishes over fears the disease will kill her before her October wedding.
Deena Elkafrawi, 30, is due to marry British fiance Richard Bayley, 35, in the UK in October. But she has been so spooked by the spiraling coronavirus outbreak in her home city of New York that she has handed her family ‘end of life wishes’ asking them not to keep her alive if she is left terribly injured by Covid-19.
Deena works as a senior registrar at the Lincoln Medical Centre the Bronx, New York. So far the city has seen more than 43,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with gynecologist Deena among thousands of doctors and nurses now fearing for their own safety after being drafted in to offer critical care to Covid-19 patients.
Speaking moments after finishing a 12 hour night shift, Deena said: ‘I feel like we are in a bloodless war and it’s heartbreaking. We all want to help the patients but there is no treatment.
‘Going to work is very scary at the minute. It has crossed my mind that I don’t know if I’ll survive this long enough to get to my wedding.
‘I am scared that going to work could kill me. I just pray that if I get it (Coronavirus) I can fight it.
‘But I have told my family my end of life wishes and I don’t know when I’ll next see any of my family members again.
Deena added she has told Richard and her parents that if she does contract coronavirus and ends up brain dead, she does not want to be resuscitated or be ‘kept alive by a machine’.
She said: ‘I have seen people who are completely healthy drop dead like flies and I just don’t know how I’ll deal with it if I get the virus.
‘I might end up being just mildly ill, but if I do end up brain dead I don’t want to be put on a ventilator, or kept alive.
‘I absolutely do not want to be resuscitated and my family know that.’
So far 1,550 people have been killed by Covid-19 across the state of New York as the US becomes the world’s worst-affected country, with 189,400 reported diagnoses by Wednesday morning. Deena, who specializes in maternity care, estimates she has already treated up to 40 Covid-19 positive patients.
She recently bought a wedding dress for her wedding to Richard at a traditional British ceremony in Oakham, Leicestershire. If it goes ahead as planned her big day will involve a traditional church wedding for which Deena will wear a white long-sleeved lace dress.
The ceremony will be followed by a reception for friends and family at a 1,000 year old carriage house in nearby Stamford, where the famous 1995 BBC adaptation of Jane Austin novel Pride and Prejudice was filmed.
Deena, Richard and their guests are hoping to spend their big day eating smoked salmon, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, and traditional British cheeses.
They are still hopeful that the pandemic might subside in time for their big day, and have yet to cancel or postpone their plans.
Deena now faces months without her fiance, who currently lives in London, after he flew over to New York to see her last week. Richard suffers from asthma, and has returned to the UK to self-isolate in a bid to keep himself safe. The couple have yet to decide whether to base themselves in Britain or the US after their wedding.
They still speak every day – often for two hours at a time – and Deena said Richard is ‘worried sick’ about her putting herself in danger by going to work.
‘He tells me to take care of myself and likes to check I’m eating properly, I’d say he’s a little too worried’, said Deena.
‘He calls me everyday and is really concerned about me.
‘But it means a lot to know he cares so much.’
Deena has been left shell-shocked by how quickly the pandemic has progressed, with five giant 1,000-bed coronavirus hospitals set to open in each of New York City’s five boroughs to deal with the expected influx of patients.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo warned the city’s coronavirus ‘peak’, when it will see most patients, could be three weeks off, raising the prospect of tens of thousands of people being diagnosed and dying each day.
Deena said: ‘There is no end in sight and we are concerned at how bad it is going to get. I fear it will break us.
‘The worst is still to come and I don’t know how we are going to cope with that.’
Even though Deena has little training in critical care she said she’s being given no choice but to act as a front-line medic tasked with tackling the virus head-on.
For the last three weeks Deena has been working 6pm – 6am at the Lincoln Medical Centre’s maternity and labour clinic.
She explains how she has treated some new-mums who have tested positive for coronavirus and had to be separated from their newborn babies and put into isolation.
‘It’s pretty emotionally traumatic’, said Deena, who has been a gynecology doctor since 2017.
She added: ‘I have accepted there is only so much I can do to protect myself against this virus.
‘I’ve come to terms with the fact that if I’m meant to die – then I’ll die.
‘My main concern is for my loved ones, the last thing I want to do is put them at risk in any way.’
Deena has seen patients die of Covid-19, but says they have slipped away peacefully – with other medics reporting sufferers dying in extreme pain and gasping helplessly for air.
Unlike many hospitals in the US, hers is well-stocked with protective masks and gowns to minimize the chances of staff contracting coronavirus – but Deena remains worried.
She said: ‘I am scared that if things get worse it will break us. I know two people, colleagues, who have had the virus and survived but some of us will start tailing off soon.
‘The worst is still to come and I don’t know how we will get through it. We are desperate and we are going to need extra help.
‘I am proud of what we are doing and when I go to work I don’t think about myself, my number one concern is for the patient, always.’