A clip of Dr. Frank Gabrin speaking about empathy was aired by NBC New York after his death on March 31.
NBC New York
Frank Gabrin, the first emergency-room doctor to die from the coronavirus in the US, said he faced a lack of personal protective equipment, forcing him to reuse what he could.
After developing symptoms, he messaged a friend, “It was me using the same mask for four days in a row that infected me,” The Guardian reported on Thursday.
Masks are not supposed to be reused, but doctors are doing so as they face shortages.
The two New York-area hospitals where Gabrin worked said they were not short on equipment.
Gabrin died in his husband’s arms on March 31.
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Frank Gabrin, the first emergency-room doctor to die from the coronavirus in the US, had told friends before his death last week that he was worried about the lack of personal protective equipment in the hospitals he worked at and that he was ultimately infected after having to wear the same mask four days in a row.
Gabrin’s friends and family shared their text messages and conversations with Gabrin before his death with The Guardian on Thursday.
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In text messages to a friend, Eddy Soffer, on March 19, Gabrin wrote, “Don’t have any PPE that has not been used.”
He added, “No N95 masks – my own goggles – my own face shield.”
Gabrin, 60, a two-time cancer survivor, died in his husband’s arms on March 31.
At the time of his death, Gabrin had symptoms consistent with those of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, but he had not been tested. The American College of Emergency Physicians has described Gabrin as the first ER doctor to die of the virus.
He had texted his friend Debra Lyons on March 26, after waking up with symptoms, “It was me using the same mask for four days in a row that infected me,” The Guardian reported.
Gabrin’s husband, Arnold Vargas, had also developed symptoms of COVID-19.
Gabrin woke up five days later struggling to breathe, saying, “Baby, I can’t breathe, help me.”
Vargas said he called 911, but Gabrin died in his arms.
Medical masks aren’t supposed to be reused, but healthcare workers are facing a dire shortage
The Food and Drug Administration says N95 respirator masks “should not be shared or reused.”
But shortages of medical equipment around the US have forced doctors to reuse them, use lower-grade masks, make their own, or work without masks entirely.
Gabrin told friends in text messages that he was reusing PPE, and he told Lyons that he was trying to wash his N95 respirator so he could use it several times, The Guardian reported.
He also said the only gloves he could get were too small and were ripped, so Lyons sent him bigger gloves from Florida and ordered him hand sanitizer, the newspaper said.
Gabrin worked in two New York-area emergency rooms: at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in Queens, and at East Orange General Hospital in New Jersey.
Screenshot_2020 04 01 Cuomo Prime Time on Twitter Dr Frank Gabrin had been treating coronavirus patients on the front lines[…]
Officials in both hospitals told The Guardian they didn’t have PPE shortages.
Dr. Teddy Lee, the ER chairman at St. John’s, said, “I know for one thing he wasn’t speaking about a lack of PPE at St. John’s.”
Alvaro Alban, East Orange’s ER chairman, said, “If for a second I thought that was our problem at East Orange I would tell you otherwise.”
Lyons told CNN earlier in April that Gabrin “lost his life needlessly” because of a lack of PPE.
An N95 respirator.
“It’s a big thing we’re asking them to face with no tools,” Lyons said.
“Being on the front lines is what each one of these healthcare workers prepared themselves for,” she added. “They did not expect to have to go it with nothing.”
Gabrin had also shared his reaction to the outbreak on social media. He wrote on Facebook after cases started to climb in March, “I have to admit, I am having some anxiety,” The Guardian reported.
Vargas said he was told that Gabrin’s funeral on Tuesday could have only 10 people because of the continued need for social distancing.