Heroes of the Front Lines
Courtesy Sarah Rosanel
April 9, 2020 7:23 AM EDT

Dr. Sarah Rosanel, 34, is a cardiologist at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

The scariest thing about this virus, and the way it’s killing people, is that it’s unpredictable. It’s not uniformed. It’s random. I had a patient that came in overnight, in his mid-60s, or 50s even, and he’s coughing. He’s short of breath. We gave him oxygen, but his oxygen levels were still going down. Within hours of intubating him, he’s dead.

It just stays with me. It hurts a lot. I’ve come home, I’ve cried. It’s very hard. You keep playing the scenario all over again in your head. What went wrong? Sometimes I don’t even make it home. I’m just in the car, and I just burst into tears thinking about what just happened, thinking about the whole day of trying to help patients. The fact that they’re alone. They are dying alone in their rooms. There are no visitors allowed, and their family members are anxious. They’re trying to call us, sometimes in the middle of saving somebody, and we cannot get to the phone. This is heartbreaking.

I’ve been in the hospital and I’ve been in medicine for many years. We’ve always had family members here—holding their hands, being with them. It’s just different when they’re completely alone, and they are dying. And that’s it. You pick up the phone, and you have to tell them their loved one is gone. Why? We have all these resources. We have all the medication. We have all the beds. It’s just puzzling. It’s very hard. It’s not something we’ve ever seen before.

Keep up to date on the growing threat to global health by signing up for our daily coronavirus newsletter.

I am a mother of three children. I have an 11-year-old, an 8-year-old and a 5-year-old. I chose medicine to really help people in the most meaningful way possible. After I was exposed and I wasn’t protected at all, my husband, my parents, my in-laws, everybody around me told me, ‘That’s it. You’re not going back. We want a wife and a mother. We don’t need a cardiologist. We don’t need a doctor. We love you, and we want you to stay with us.’ Everybody came to me and told me, ‘Do not go back.’

But I felt it was a moral duty. I thought it was unethical to not go back. I love my children more than anything in the world. I love my husband. I could not have not gone back. I want to help.

They tried to talk me out of it, but I explained to them that this is the job. This is who I am and I’m going to do it. They know me. I am a fighter. This is not the day I’m going to give up. —As told to Melissa Chan

Contact us at editors@time.com.

EDIT POST