NEW YORK - As a hospital transporter at Mount Sinai Morningside, Rafael Miranda, 35, helps keep hospital operations moving during the pandemic. He transports patients from the emergency department to hospital rooms, delivers oxygen tanks and medical records.
“Sometimes even flowers to the patients,” Miranda said.
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And when a patient dies, Miranda’s job also requires that he move the body from the hospital room to the morgue.
When the hospital received its first patient suspected to have coronavirus, Miranda volunteered to transport the patient. He had to be quickly fitted for an N-95 mask and was informed that his beard would interfere with proper fitting.
“Being that that was going to be an issue, I took it upon myself to ask for a disposable razor,” Miranda explained.
Without hesitation, Miranda shaved it off so he could help move the patient into position for treatment.
“I mean, I’ve seen some things working here, people in really bad conditions,” said Miranda. “This is a whole new level. This is something that a lot of people will probably need therapy for."
"Just yesterday, we got another call for the morgue, and as we were about to place the sticker in the books, I guess the pages were turned,” he explained. “We had to continuously turn the page, turn the page, to get to a blank page where we could place the sticker. The book is almost filled with names of the deceased. So many names.”
In late March, Miranda got a fever. For him, it was the first sign he had contracted the coronavirus.
“It took a while, it was a rough, I want to say two weeks that I had been gone, but then I started to feel a little bit better, which was on my birthday,” he explained. “The following day is when I got word my father had passed.”
Miranda’s father had been in a nursing home for a heart condition. But his death was still sudden and not believed COVID-related. Miranda, who was recovering from the virus, could not be at his side.
"His heart stopped, they asked if I wanted to intubate him, I said, 'Yes, definitely.' The doctor said he would call me back with the outcome and he did. And he didn’t make it,” Miranda recalled.
Rafael Miranda, Sr. was 62 years old.
Now recently returned to work, Miranda leans on his co-workers.
“What helps me through - I see the patients. To be in their shoes. That helps to know that they got somebody. Since they don’t have family, we are going to be their family,” Miranda explains.
For Miranda, being a hospital transporter has always been much more than pushing a hospital bed and maybe that’s truer now than ever before.
“It is very sad to lose someone and then not being able to see them or at least not being able to see them while they are suffering, that’s kind of the same thing I felt when I heard about my dad, so I can relate,” he explained. "All I can say is they are not alone, they are definitely not alone. We are here for them just as much as you would want to be with them."