US emergency room doctor dies after coronavirus symptoms
An emergency room doctor in New Jersey has died shortly after experiencing symptoms consistent with the coronavirus, family and colleagues say.
Dr. Frank Gabrin, 60, who worked at East Orange General Hospital, died about a week after he developed coronavirus symptoms, his husband Arnold Vargas told local media outlets.
The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) said that Gabrin was the nation’s first emergency doctor to die following apparent coronavirus symptoms.
“He had a lot of coughing and two days ago he was very sick,” Vargas told NJ Advance Media. Vargas said Gabrin woke up Tuesday saying, “Baby, I can’t breathe.”
Vargas told NBC News they called authorities after Gabrin woke up with chest pain, but he died at their apartment in New York City before help arrived.
Gabrin had not been tested for COVID-19, but Vargas said his husband was sure he had been infected because he treated people with the same symptoms.
ACEP president Dr. William Jaquis mourned Gabrin’s death in a statement Wednesday while doubling down on the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) at hospitals.
“We are deeply saddened to learn that a former ACEP member and our current colleague on the frontlines—an emergency physician—has lost his fight against this virus,” Jaquis said.
“Emergency physicians understand that sometimes in our efforts to save your life, we may end up sacrificing our own. This is not a decision made lightly or a post abandoned in times of need. We know the risks of the job we signed up for, but we are on the frontlines in this historic war against COVID-19 with insufficient protection,” Jaquis added.
Jaquis invited the public to take part in a “pause,” a moment he said health care professionals use to halt the fast pace emergency medicine and reflect, in honor of Gabrin.
“This evening at 8 PM EST, while many of you are safe at home, please stand with emergency care teams and take the pause in honor of a life lost on the frontlines,” he said. “And remember, you can do your part to help emergency physicians by staying home and take the appropriate steps to protect yourself and your loved ones.”
Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency room doctor at Brown University, said Gabrin was a leader in the emergency medicine field.
“It breaks my heart,” she said in an interview with MSNBC’s Chuck Todd. Ranney said she knew Gabrin and had not been aware he died until Todd mentioned it in the interview moments before.
BREAKING: First U.S. ER physician dies from COVID-19.
Dr. @meganranney, who knew him, reacts: “He was a leader within the emergency room field. … Unless our government steps up & gets us the protective equipment we need, he will be the first of many of my colleagues.” pic.twitter.com/UVyR4xdU2C
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) April 1, 2020
“I hope he is the first of only a few emergency physicians to die, but if Italy and China are any guide, unless our government steps up and gets us the protective equipment we need he will be the first of many of my colleagues to succumb to COVID-19.”
Dr. Alvaro Alban, the chairman of the Emergency Department at East Orange General Hospital, told NBC News that Gabrin was “delightful, caring and wonderful work with.”
“He had every intention to help. He was eager to keep working in the E.D. and was disappointed when he started to get symptoms. His intention was that his fever would break. Dr. Gabrin was motivated, on a mission and wanted to keep working,” Alban said in a statement to the outlet.