In the Intensive Care Unit, A Photographer’s View of a Desperate Covid War


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Earlier this year, as I photographed people in Covid-19 intensive care units, I was protected by four sets of plastic: goggles, goggles, face shield, and visor. But there is no protection for one’s suffering.

Caught images for a recent Times article about the last resort Covid treatment called ECMODocumenting coronavirus patients and the medical professionals caring for them at Providence Saint John Health Center in Santa Monica, California, their families let me share the darkest moments of their lives.

I felt privileged to be allowed to enter these sacred spaces. As a journalist, I feel it is my responsibility to have the emotional bandwidth to be with people in moments that most of society can’t handle. Despite safety guidelines recommending not spending long periods in intensive care rooms, I spent hours with each patient, lingering for long periods of time to understand the person and to reveal a spectrum of emotional moments.

Verbal interaction helps me connect with the people I photograph. In this task, some people were not awake or unable to speak, and the strongest connection was often silent.

I would stand by the bed of 25-year-old Alfred Sablan and imagine the timbre of his voice, trying to feel the gentle demeanor his mother had described. The 62-year-old Dr. I would lean over David Gutierrez’s bed and remind him who I am. He would look back, unable to respond with words, but I felt the connection between us was through the classic rock playing on his iPad.

Periodically, a staff member Mr. Sablan or Dr. He used to go in to check on Gutierrez. “Are you okay?” asked a nurse, Dr. Breaking down the door of Gutierrez’s room. He nodded his head “yes”.

In the midst of all the suffering, there were reminders of grace.


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