Dr. Breen, 49, oversaw the emergency room at New York’s Presbyterian Allen Hospital in Upper Manhattan. The unit had become a brutal battlefield where supplies were exhausting at an alarming rate and doctors, including them, and nurses were getting sick. The waiting room was constantly overcrowded. The sick died unnoticed.
As Dr. Breen called this time, it sounded strange. Her voice was distant, as if in shock.
“I don’t know what to do,” she said. “I can’t get up from my chair.” Her sister helped take her to a psychiatric ward.
She planned exciting excursions, joined a ski club, played cello in an orchestra, took salsa classes and visited Redeemer Presbyterian, a church that attracted top-class professionals. Once a year, she gathered all of her social circles at a party on her roof.
At the end of February, when elected leaders assured the public that the virus was not a serious threat, she was convinced that it would surprise hospitals. And it did Flooding of emergency rooms like yours with desperately sick people. There would be bodies every day. Ultimately, during the worst crisis, almost a quarter of the people admitted to the Allen to be treated for Covid-19 would die.
On April 26, Dr. Breen killed. Her family believes that she should be one of the victims of the pandemic. That she was destroyed by the sheer number of people she couldn’t save. That she was ashamed of crying for help.
“Lorna kept saying,” I think everyone knows I have problems, “said her sister.” She was so embarrassed. “