A doctor for the Washington University-BJC Health System in St. Louis went viral after creating a video of a dying patient’s “last moments” to urge the public to take COVID-19 seriously.
Dr. Kenneth Remy, a pediatric and adult critical care physician, wants people to know, “This is not fear-mongering. This is real.” His first-person clip uploaded to Twitter last week has since been viewed 121,000 times.
“This is what it looks like when you breathe 40 times a minute, have an oxygen level that’s dipping well below 80. This is what it’s going to look like,” the doctor said.
“I hope that the last moments of your life don’t look like this,” he continues, holding up a laryngoscope and endotracheal tube used for intubation. “Because this is what you’ll see at the end of your life if we don’t start wearing masks when we’re out in public.”
Dr. Remy, 43, spoke exclusively with PEOPLE on Thursday after his video garnered mass attention, saying he felt the need to make it after witnessing a “pretty high mortality in people dying” of the novel coronavirus in ICU units. He hopes the video will emphasize how important it is to social distance, wear masks, and other safety measures to lessen the spread of the virus.
“The only way I know how to keep people alive, to keep people safe, is that they don’t get the disease in the first place,” he says. “I really don’t want to continue calling families to let them know that their loved ones — who were otherwise healthy a week ago — are now dead.”
The doctor has treated over 1,000 patients who contracted the virus and has had to intubate 100 of those patients during the pandemic. He says he’s seen 50-60 patients die due to COVID-19.
“To be perfectly candid, I fully recognize that restricting the way we conduct our lives right now has been exceedingly difficult and uncomfortable,” Remy says. “But you know what is really uncomfortable? Not being able to breathe. Not being able to leave an intensive care unit. What’s really uncomfortable is being vulnerable in a bed, where someone is putting a plastic tube down your throat to help you, and you may not survive.”
“Once you get into a situation in the intensive care unit where you wear a breathing tube, your mortality rate goes way up,” he adds, also saying he’s fearful that the numbers will go up due to the holidays, which will cause more strain on healthcare systems and its staffers.
He is doing what he can not to bring the virus home to his wife and four children. “The truth is every time I intubate or perform CPR on a person with COVID, I’m a little nervous of getting the disease,” he says. “I can’t tell you enough how that fear is real for me and all of my colleagues. It seems odd, but the thought of potentially transmitting the disease inadvertently to those that I love the most in this world [while] doing the job that I have wanted to do since I was five years old is frankly terrifying.”