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How life has changed for Russia’s oncologists. Photos from doctors on the job.

Source: Meduza

As hospitals around the world admit waves of new patients infected with the coronavirus, other necessary medical services have naturally continued, albeit under very changed conditions. Oncologists work inside this danger zone, going days without seeing their loved ones and donning the miserably uncomfortable but necessary personal protective equipment that has become so familiar in news reports since the start of the pandemic. The Anti-Leukemia Foundation recently asked oncologists in Moscow and St. Petersburg to share photographs and videos showing what their job is like during the fight against COVID-19. All photos below were provided by the foundation.

The Anti-Leukemia Foundation is fundraising money to buy PPE and disinfectant, to rent apartments near clinics, and to pay for coronavirus tests for oncohematologists. 

Doctors work in shifts: a week on duty, then a week at home. The physicians pictured above are showing on their hands how many consecutive days they’ve been at work.

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Before stepping into the ward to check in on his patients, oncohematologist Mikhail suits up in his PPE. It takes between 10 and 15 minutes to get everything on and strapped in place.

Blood donations coordinator Lyubov poses for a photo with a regular donor in the early days of the quarantine. Because of their masks, her iPhone fails to recognize that people are present in the shot.
Oncohematologist Olga texted this photo to her friends with the caption: “E.T.”

Work continues at intensive care units, where doctors must now don PPE whenever treating patients suspected of having COVID-19. Photographed above, ICU head Gennady and intensivist Mikhail insert a self-retaining catheter during a hemodialysis procedure (a treatment to filter wastes and water from the blood). 

To avoid exposing her children to anything she might bring home, blood donations coordinator Lyubov’s kids are staying with her parents. She celebrated her birthday alone, video chatting with her children and relatives. These precautions help to protect both patients and donors, as well as Lyubov’s family. 

Doctors insert a central venous catheter.

Oncohematologist Islam disinfects his gloves before meeting with each patient.
A scene at an isolation ward. During the pandemic, this is how lumbar punctures are performed.

All new oncology patients are potential coronavirus carriers. Even if they test negative for COVID-19, they are required to begin their leukemia treatment in isolation and remain in isolation for two weeks. Doctors, nurses, and janitors working in these hospital wings are in a high-risk zone. They live on the hospital grounds and do not interact with other personnel. An oncohematologist named Olga says she looks forward to seeing her relatives again: “We’re now forced to isolate from them, so we don’t bring the infection home. The main thing our relatives keep asking is: ‘Are you wearing the protective gear? The respirators?’” She says she dreams of getting a good night’s sleep and sitting down for a morning cup of coffee at a cafe. 

Photographed above, left to right: doctors Olga, Galina, and Olga, and nurse Anna.

Oncohematologists’ patients are extremely vulnerable to COVID-19. These immunocompromised individuals are at risk of dying if infected with the coronavirus. Many doctors — especially those who previously needed public transit to commute to work — now live at hospitals or stay at nearby apartments the Anti-Leukemia Foundation rents for patients. The residences are modest — space enough to shower and boil some pasta or scramble some eggs. Yulia and Antonina, both doctors, are currently sharing one of these apartments. They work at a nearby intensive care unit and remain in touch with their friends and family, but only through video chat.

Pictured above: four women doctors working in the isolation ward (the most dangerous part of the hospital).

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