(WTAJ) — An Altoona native is working on the frontline of the pandemic where one of the first cases of the Coronavirus was confirmed: Seattle.
Dr. Eliot Fagley was born and raised in Altoona. He went to Altoona High School then Juniata College in Huntingdon. After medical school in Louisiana and residency in St. Louis, he and his wife made their way to Seattle, where he works with COVID-19 patients every day.
“It’s real. The virus is real. Let me reassure you. It is very real,” he said.
Dr. Fagley is an anesthesiologist who leads the Critical Care Unit’s COVID-19 Response Team at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, Washington.
One of the first cases of the virus in the U.S. was confirmed just north of the hospital. Three weeks later, Virginia Mason had its first.
“At the beginning, there’s a lot of energy around caring for folks in this new disease process. But, then, you’re nine months into it, and folks start to realize that this isn’t really going away, and we still have patients who are dying without loved ones by their sides,” Fagley said.
Fagley said one of the most difficult moments over the past nine months was a family member of a positive patient thinking the virus was not real.
“That was really hard because it’s hard to feel like somebody’s blaming you for what is happening to their loved one when really it’s the disease that’s doing it,” he said.
What’s impressed Fagley the most is the dedication of his staff.
“There has not been a single person who has come to my office and said ‘Hey. Listen. I don’t feel comfortable taking care of these patients.’ Instead, what’s happened is everyone has said ‘Oh no. I want to go in. I want to go in. I want to go in. I want to be the one that’s caring for these patients’,” he said.
While they are mentally and emotional drained, the fight against the virus is not over yet.
“This is certainly a marathon, not a sprint,” Fagley said.