An ER doctor who recovered from the coronavirus and continued to treat other COVID-19 patients has committed suicide, CNN reports.
The father of Dr. Lorna Breen, 49, told CNN his daughter took her own life this past Sunday morning. “She was in the trenches,” said Philip Breen. “She was a hero.” The woman committed suicide in Charlottesville, Virginia, according to her father. Lorna worked in two New York hospitals: Columbia University Irving Medical Center and New York-Presbyterian hospital system. The state of New York is currently the epicenter of the disease, with over 300,000 cases and 30,728 recoveries.
In an interview with CNN, Breen described his daughter as a soldier who fought on the frontlines. “She went down in the trenches and was killed by the enemy on the front line. She loved New York and wouldn’t hear about living anywhere else. She loved her coworkers and did what she could for them,” said Breen. “I just want people to know how special she was,” he added.
Lorna would speak to her father, a retired trauma surgeon, often about her life during the outbreak. She told her father that she and her colleagues were working 18-hour days, sleeping in hallways and that ambulances couldn’t get in because of how busy it was. Lorna was stationed in the emergency department, where she was placed for weeks, CNN reports. As of this Tuesday, the state has reported more than 22,000 deaths caused by the virus. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Lorna faced her own trial of COVID-19 and took a week and a half to get better at home. Feeling that she needed to help her colleagues, she returned to work, barely being able to withstand a 12-hour shift. A friend of hers, who is also a doctor, ended up visiting Lorna at home and told her to go home to her family in Virginia. Eventually, Lorna was taken to the hospital at the University of Virginia for exhaustion, but after a week’s stay, she went to stay with her sister, where she died. A news release stated she was taken to the University of Virginia to be treated and “later succumbed to self-inflicted injuries,” police said.
In a statement, New York City hospitals responded to Lorna’s death. “Words cannot convey the sense of loss we feel today. Dr. Breen is a hero who brought the highest ideals of medicine to the challenging front lines of the emergency department. Our focus today is to provide support to her family, friends, and colleagues as they cope with this news during what is already an extraordinarily difficult time,” said the statement.
The Charlottesville Police Department also addressed the physical and mental impact the coronavirus has on medical workers. “Frontline healthcare professionals and first responders are not immune to the mental or physical effects of the current pandemic. On a daily basis, these professionals operate under the most stressful of circumstances, and the coronavirus has introduced additional stressors,” said Charlottesville Police Chief RaShall Brackney.