Doctor pictured in viral photo hugging elderly Covid patient speaks out: ‘I was feeling sad just like him’

Namita Singh
·2 min read
<p> Dr Joseph Varon hugs and comforts a patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit (ICU) during Thanksgiving at the United Memorial Medical Center</p> (Getty Images)

Dr Joseph Varon hugs and comforts a patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit (ICU) during Thanksgiving at the United Memorial Medical Center

(Getty Images)

A doctor who was photographed comforting a distraught elderly coronavirus patient on Thanksgiving day has opened up about the moment the now-viral image was captured.

Dr Joseph Varon, chief of staff at the United Memorial Medical Centre in Houston, Texas, said he did not realise the photograph was being taken and was “feeling sad” just like the patient at the time.

Having media in the hospital is not unusual and important for transparency, he told CNN in an interview on Monday.

Recalling what happened when the picture was taken, he said: “I have a photographer following me and as I'm going inside my covid unit, I see this elderly patient is out of his bed and trying to get out of the room, and he's crying.

“So I get close to him and I tell him, ‘Why are you crying?’ and the man says, ‘I want to be with my wife.’ So, you know, I just grab him… I hold him. I did not know that I was being photographed at the time.”

The tender moment between the doctor and the unidentified patient was captured by Getty’s photographer, Go Nakamura.

The patient eventually felt better and stopped crying, said the doctor.

Updating the viewers about the status of the elderly man in the picture, he said the patient still cannot see his wife until his swabs are negative. “It’s very difficult,” Dr Varon said. “You can imagine, you are inside a room where people coming in space suits and you have no communication with anybody else, other by phone, if you’re lucky.

“When you are an elderly individual, it’s even more difficult because you feel that you are alone. You feel isolated.”

He said that they are hopeful that the patient will be discharged before the end of the week.

Describing what he was thinking at the time the image was taken, he said: “I was feeling sad just like him. And I was just recollecting all the patients that I’ve had to do similar things with.”

Dr Varon told CNN he had been working consecutively for the past 256 days, and said he gets frustrated when he sees people “doing the wrong thing” when it comes to preventing the virus’s spread.

“People are out there in bars, restaurants, malls. I mean it’s crazy. It’s like we work work work work work and people don’t listen and then they end up in my ICU (sic).”

The doctor urged people to maintain social distancing, wear masks, wash hands and avoid crowded places. “If people can do that, health care workers like me will be able to hopefully rest.”

According to the New York Times, the US has so far recorded over 13.6 million cases with over 268,023 deaths, while 1,265 new coronavirus deaths were reported on 30 November and about 167,756 new cases.

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