He was there to give hope to his dying COVID patients suffering from excruciating pain and misery, isolated in sterile hospital rooms.
Sometimes, Dr. Thomas Yadegar, with the medical team at Providence Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Tarzana, was at the hands of those who died throughout 2020, when loved ones were turned away to avoid spreading the deadly virus.
In the early days, medical teams weren’t sure who they were dealing with.
As a result, they blocked the outside world from entering hospitals as dozens of patients died every day.
Code Blue was called one after the other.
“I agree, along with our nurses, that one of the worst parts of the pandemic was that our patients were dying alone,” Yadgar said. “I always thought that our patients get hope from their family and loved ones. I didn’t think that we, as healthcare providers, … were able to provide them with hope. Hope is the only thing I find in medicine. I believe that even as doctors and nurses we can give hope to our patients. They are not alone in fighting their illness… or their journey, even if it means you are at their bedside And you hold their hands as they take their last breath.”
Yadegar said that the patients’ goodbyes on Zoom, an online video chat platform, had an emotional impact on the hospital staff.
“It seems that the more deadly this virus is and the more havoc it is wreaking havoc on, the worse our fear and our response to it is,” he said. “I think that by not allowing family and loved ones in the hospital to see what was happening and to be with their loved ones and give them a fighting chance, to give them hope to push themselves forward.” So, I think we’ve done too much damage.”
Yadgar serves as the Director of Hospital Services, Pulmonary Medicine and Intensive Care Unit for the hospital and also operates a private pulmonary practice across the street.
Recently, he was honored with The Murray Mazur, MD Physician of the Year Memorial Award for his tireless work during the pandemic.
This annual award is given to a physician with unshakable dedication who has made a remarkable impact on the lives of others and stands as a role model for his peers.
A panel of eight actively practicing past employees nominate an award recipient. Yadgar was the 13th recipient of the 2020 annual award this month.
“Dr. Yadegar was chosen among just 900 physicians,” said Debbie Miller, director of medical staff services. “He is an exceptional patient advocate and caring for each patient in a compassionate manner as if they were members of his family. “
Due to last year’s COVID-19 restrictions, the 2020 award was postponed. Yadegar was recognized for his outstanding medical achievements in the face of adversity.
When fear and uncertainty remained and protocols used by some European countries were not working, they recognized the need to redefine treatment modalities within two weeks.
After extensive research and deep clinical acumen, Yadgar’s new guidelines saved many lives.
“(Initially we adopted) a lot of the protocols in Europe, given by critical care physicians in Italy, who were dealing with COVID much earlier than us,” Yadegar said. “But within two weeks, I saw that this was the wrong way to treat this disorder[so]I changed all my guidelines.”
After a period of trial and error, his team learned to treat patients quickly and aggressively and not wait for them to become so ill that there was no looking back.
Yadegar worked 20-hour shifts, often eight days in a row during the worst period of the pandemic.
And, as a last line of defense as the COVID team coordinator, he made an extra change if he called when he was sick.
This took a toll on his close extended family, whom he had not seen physically for months.
“Once the hospital gave me the responsibility of taking care of COVID patients, I felt that I did not mind and I had to ensure not only my patients, but also our physicians that they remained well,” said four Yadgar, 53, the father of the children said.
Earlier the ICU used to have a 10-bed unit. After all, the staff was treating 30 patients a day, all of them were intubated, they were all very serious.
Yadgar, who describes himself as a folk figure, made it a point to get to know each and every one of them.
“He was there before we got there in the morning,” said ICU charge nurse Carmen Verano, who worked with Yadgar. “Our shift starts at 6:45 am. And he was the last one to leave at night. It was very hard for everyone and especially for him, but you wouldn’t know by looking at him because he kept himself intact. He was always close, always available for all decisions. ,
Verano described the months between March and December 2020 as highly chaotic for all.
“He couldn’t break down because people were looking to him for guidance or reassurance and it was very tough and I’m sure he won’t let everyone down,” Verano said. “He was too strong for everyone. If he wasn’t there, people would probably throw in the towel and he wouldn’t let that happen. He just kept going and if he could do that then people could do their job.”
As a child watching American medical shows like the 1970 TV series Marcus Welby MD in Iran, Yadegar always knew he wanted to be a doctor.
And although having been in the medical field for decades, the pandemic was an empowering life lesson.
“I was never really proud to be a doctor until the first few days of the pandemic when … walking with my colleagues, going on duty with the nurses,” he said. “What I learned is that our field is great. Our patients come to us with broken bodies, and not only broken bodies but broken souls, and we need to heal them, heal their bodies, and heal their souls.” get a chance to heal and that’s great and impressive. We give them hope.”
Yadegar was always the loving one who gave patients the will to get through difficult medical diagnoses.
“But during this pandemic, we turned those people out at the bedside,” he said. “We as healthcare providers … (give) hope to our patients and we must give hope to our patient; That is really noble.”
And while the pandemic was a lesson to be learned for hospital workers, for Yadegar it remains an emotional roller coaster that he will never forget or that will fade with time.
Yadegar, wiping away tears, said, “I’ve never forgotten this patient who was in our hospital for three weeks, late 50s, early 60s, a little diabetic, a little obese, but for three weeks He kept fighting.” from his eye. “He was on too much oxygen, could barely take a breath. Whenever someone was near him it was always the same thing, ‘Help me. Help me get better. I have to get better because my daughter’s’ The wedding is happening and I have to take her down the aisle. At some point… you see he knows he’s not going to make it. He’s not fighting anymore. After three weeks of fighting for every single breath, he’s ready to die. Is asking because he can’t stand it anymore.
Katherine Jacobson, a second-year medical student and Yadegar’s assistant, has been by her side since the outbreak of the pandemic.
She said that she has an innate desire to care for every single patient that crosses her path and is an incredibly humble person who does the least, but he takes it to heart.
Jacobson compared his boss to old-time country doctors who lived in the same community as his patients.
“He’s someone who knows his patients … is actually treating the person,” she said. “There is definitely a father quality (about him) where people feel comfortable with his presence. It is the calming power that whenever a problem arises, Dr. Yadegar can solve it. There is no one to work harder than him, that’s for sure.”