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A hospital is an invaluable starting point for understanding an epidemic. It gives insight into the severity of a disease in a geographic area, tells whether cases are rising or falling, which populations are most affected, and how well the health infrastructure is doing.
Shortly after coronavirus cases emerged in the U.S., my editor, Rebecca Corbett, suggested reporting inside a hospital to highlight my medical training and previous work as an infectious disease outbreak reporter. After initially focusing on the Crisis in New York hospitalsI went to report this summer on a flurry of cases in Texas at the Houston Methodist Hospital after spending time there after Hurricane Harvey in 2017. The officials there had agreed to give me and my colleagues from the photo and video department exclusive access to the hospital and to work with us, asking for permission from patients we wanted to interview.
We also got to know a lot of employees. Towards the end of a reporting day, Lluvialy Faz, a nurse in a coronavirus intensive care unit, spoke of having been referred to only Hispanic patients for weeks.
“You look like my aunt, you look like my sister, you look like my mother,” said Ms. Faz, who is Mexican-American.
For Emily Rhyne, a cameraman for the Times, that comment, and the fact that the majority of patients in that department were Hispanic, “lit a lightbulb” which led to it our multimedia project on the impact of the virus on the Houston Latino communities as told through the stories of five patients down a single hallway in I.C.U. Instead of producing narrated videos that we had made, we would incorporate videos, photos, words, and graphics for that story, based on the voices of patients, families, and medical providers.
“There is no sugar-coating for the toll this disease can take on the body, and I wanted to contrast that intensity with the softness with which loved ones described it,” wrote Ms. Rhyne when I asked her about her vision for the project to describe . “Some of the graphics are not easy to look at and shouldn’t be. It was essential to capture this reality while respecting the dignity of the person. The photographer Erin Schaff and I talked about it all the time.”
One of my favorite parts about working at The Times and reading The Times is the way stories are told in a number of modalities – words, photos, video, audio, and graphics – each of which have their own strengths in them to convey the realities of our world. Our team in Houston consisted of me, the word person; Ms. Schaff, an employee who was my partner Coverage of the public hospital system in New York City;; and Mrs. Rhyne, who had done a convincing job another New York hospital. Our perspectives and that of numerous editors, producers, and members of our video, photography, research, graphics, and arts departments (Sameen Amin, Solana Pyne, Emma Cott, Lanie Shapiro, Beth Flynn, Gray Beltran, Rumsey Taylor, and Juliette Love) others) came together to shape the project.
We knew the statistics – Hispanic communities were disproportionately affected by the health crisis. But in this I.C.U. The hallway with the patients around us in room by room, their lives in suspension, made it much more real.
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frequently asked Questions
Updated August 12, 2020
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Ms. Rhyne and Ms. Schaff spent long days filming and photographing the patients, families and staff at the hospital. Ms. Cott, a senior video journalist, spoke to several families from afar. I also spent days in the I.C.U. reported visiting some families, working with the hospital’s data specialists, and staying in touch with medical teams and patients after we left to keep up with their conditions. Although we were in Houston for over three weeks when we reported this and that other storiesIt took many more weeks to assemble all the parts.
It was remarkable “how hard and scary it is for families not to be able to be with loved ones in the hospital”, thought Ms. Schaff due to the restrictions of the coronavirus. She added that it was especially important to document the moments when a patient, Ana Flores, first had a video call with her husband Domingo and daughters after stepping out of a ventilator. Our team was present on similar virtual visits when she was passed out and her outcome was unclear.
One thing that will stay with me is the bravery of I.C.U. Employee. They simultaneously treated critically ill patients like never before in their careers, while at the same time putting their own safety at risk. They still came to work every day with hope and determination, even if they shed tears at times.
For Ms. Rhyne, the entire reporting process “moved me to the core”, she wrote. “A brother who asks God to save his brother, an indomitable grandmother who fights for her life.” Speaking to families, she said: “We have painted a broader picture of what we could lose from the virus.”