Outbreaks of the novel coronavirus in various countries has compelled health officials to request that retired medical personnel return to service in a voluntary capacity. In Italy, Britain, Spain, the US and beyond, tens of thousands of these generous souls have answered the call. They are willing to put their own health on the line in order to save lives. In Italy alone, over 100 doctors and dozens of nurses and medical assistants have died from COVID-19. The majority of the medical volunteers are age 60 or older and therefore face elevated risks from the disease.
New outlets around the world have called attention to the great service that elder medics are providing to their communities and to humanity as a whole.
Dr. Christian Chenay, France
Dr. Chenay is 98 years old and has been practicing medicine for 70 years. The physician has long treated patients in the “forgotten” suburbs of Paris, where family doctors are in short supply. He is one of just three doctors serving the 19,000 residents of Chevilly-Larue.
Although Dr. Chenay has been compelled by the pandemic to close his walk-in clinic, he still offers virtual consultations and makes two visits a week to a local retirement home to treat aging patients. He has outlasted his own son, who retired from the medical profession at the age of 67.
Dr. Bill Fisher, USA
35-years ago, Dr. Bill Fisher was an astronaut on the space shuttle Discovery. Today, he is on the frontlines of the pandemic response as an emergency room doctor in a Houston, Texas area hospital. Fisher’s daughter Kristin a Fox News correspondent first called attention to the great sacrifice her father was making.
Dr. Fisher has stated that working with COVID-19 patients is statistically more dangerous than flying on the space shuttle. Some critics believe that his decision to continue working in the ER is reckless. However, Dr. Fisher believes that his moral obligation outweighs the risks.
Dr. Handoko Gunawan, Indonesia
Dr. Gunawan is a 79-year-old pulmonary specialist in Jakarta. Since the beginning of the pandemic he has been treating patients who may be infected with coronavirus. His family, including five grandchildren have expressed grave concerns about his work. However, Dr. Gunawan is committed to protecting his community. In fact, the demand is so great for his services that he sometimes works until 3 AM. After one such shift, he collapsed and ended up in the hospital. Fortunately, he tested negative for COVID-19 and has been released.
Dr. Fredy Suter, Italy
74-year-old Dr. Suter, an Italian infectious disease specialist, retired in 2011. However, at the start of the crisis he returned to Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital in Bergamo to offer his services. Bergamo is a city in the north of Italy, at the epicenter of a coronavirus outbreak that has area hospitals on the brink of collapse. Dr. Suter now treats patients with acute respiratory distress, many of whom are on ventilators or are wearing special oxygen helmets. At the end of March, there were 5 critical patients for every ICU bed in his hospital. Dr. Suter is concerned about the risks but believes that he may have already recovered from a mild case of COVID-19.