Although he’s no stranger to international travel or even the media, Dr. Ken Remy, of Wildwood, has been thoroughly shocked at how far his message on the importance of mask-wearing and the realities of COVID-19 has traveled. Remy made the short video with his impassioned plea on Nov. 21. Since then, his message has been replayed by major media outlets including CNN, BBC
“I did not expect any of the reception we have received from this video,” Remy said.
The viral video, originally uploaded to Twitter, is only 78 seconds long. But during that brief time Remy, nearly fully covered in personal protective equipment, speaks to the camera as if the viewer is the patient. He painstakingly demonstrates everything from the labored breathing of respiratory failure to the insertion of a breathing tube. The video is disturbing but that’s the point.
While he didn’t plan on the level of recognition the video would receive, Remy said making it was not done in an off-hand manner.
“We’d been doing this (wearing masks, fighting COVID-19) for so many months and you were hearing that both in the community and with the health care community that there was fatigue,” Remy said. “That week alone I had called 11 families, before that video was made, in the middle of the night to let them know their loved ones had died. You can imagine that is just about the worst phone call you could ever have to make.”
Remy believes the video has been important in showing the general public the realities of the pandemic’s front lines.
“No one can really come in (to the hospital) to see what we see day in and day out from our perspective,” Remy said. “This was really the only way to show individuals what (COVID-19 death) might look like.”
Remy has been practicing medicine for 16 years. While he said his first priority has always been the care of his patients, he also “wears the hats” of being a scientist and a researcher. During the early days of the pandemic in the U.S., Remy co-authored a paper that disproved some of the earlier beliefs about how COVID-19 attacks the body.
“I’ve never seen a pandemic to this scale before … this is exceedingly different than anything else I have experienced. It’s just not a local problem. It’s a true pandemic.”Dr. Ken Remy, who has worked the front lines of several global health crises including Ebola in Africa and H1N1, on the historic nature of COVID-19
Remy splits his time between the emergency care needs of Barnes Jewish and Missouri Baptist hospitals. With COVID-19 patient needs overflowing beyond the standard care for ERs or even ICUS, Remy and his colleagues have been treating patients of all ages in multiple settings.
“Some of the things I think the general public doesn’t understand is that’s not normal care practice pre-COVID,” Remy said. “Or that your friends and family could be at risk from the job that you do.”
He admits that he has been concerned throughout the pandemic about any potential exposure he could bring home to his wife, Allison, or their four young children.
“There is this fear that I could become ill, or that I could pass it along to (them),” Remy said. He noted that he takes three to four showers a day, including at home and at the hospitals. “The fatigue is not from taking care of patients at the bedside. The fatigue is from the potential implications of taking care of a disease that has such high potential mortality.
“Everyone of us that takes care of patients in this realm always wants to do the best for our patients, and there is no fatigue there. Every one of us is up for our job … and that’s not going to change.”