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Cedar Rapids doctor returns to Iowa after two weeks of working in New York City hospital

(Image: File video)
(Image: File video)(KCRG)
Published: Apr. 28, 2020 at 5:50 PM CDT
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New York has been one of the hardest hit when it comes to COVID-19 in the United States with 17,000 of the country's 56,000 taking place in the state.

Mary Kemen, an anesthesiologist at UnityPoint-St. Luke's Hospital, returned to Iowa on Monday after spending over two weeks working at a hospital in Manhattan.

"When you do this type of work, that’s what you do. You go where people feel they need you at the moment and certainly they did need help at the time I arrived," Kemen said.

Kemen felt compelled to help where the need was greatest, something she's been doing since she was in South Sudan as part of Doctors without Borders.

“I’ve done this type of thing where you simply go with a sense of I'm going to go wherever I'm sent," Kemen said.

It took a few days to get the right credentials to practice in the state of New York, but after that Kemen was put right to work on the front lines battling in the hospital's intensive care unit.

“My first responsibility was to help cover an 18-bed intensive care unit at night and every one of those patients was intubated and ventilated," Kemen said. "That was just one ICU they had 90 ICU patients in that hospital alone,"

Kemen said she cared for many in New York that were from impoverished communities without proper forms of insurance.

“We need to have a leveling of the access to healthcare in our society," Kemen said.

"Unfortunately all the statistics related to COVID tell us that we have nothing of the sort so people who live in impoverished communities, people who don’t have access to regular healthcare, are dying at a greater rate and its not a mystery, its because of those factors.”

Kemen returned home on Monday because she says the virus is starting to taper off in New York. She wore protective gear for over two weeks and upon returning home to the Midwest, she was surprised at what she saw at the airport.

“It was fairly striking" Kemen said. "Returning to the Eastern Iowa airport and seeing that nobody is wearing masks,"

Kemen wants people to not be lax about their exposure potential because of how contagious the virus is

“Follow those guidelines. Stay away from large groups of people because this is going to be with us for a while and it’s a very, very serious disease,” Kemen said.

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