Fresno doctor books one-way flight to NY to help medical workers overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases

"I've had end-of-life conversations with family members at home and hold up a phone for them as the patient is dying," says Dr. Ajit Rai.

This is the reality doctors on the front lines, like Dr. Rai is facing in the battle against COVID-19.

The Fresno-based anesthesiologist is now in New York, saying he didn't waste a moment in booking a one-way ticket to help his colleagues.

"They began telling me about the horrors they were experiencing in NYC hospitals," Dr. Rai said. "With elective surgeries ceasing, I felt an obligation to help my colleagues in New York City."

Dr. Rai works at UCSF-Fresno and CRMC but says he took a hiatus from his practice and received emergency credentialing to start working right away.

With nearly 200,000 cases in the state of New York, he says the health system is overcapacity.

Along with dozens in the ICU, he says patients are often dying alone.

"Because of how contagious this virus is, we don't want civilians going inside, even if that means seeing a family member who is about to pass," Dr. Rais said.

Dr. Rai says all the patients he helps have COVID-19. His own health is on the line.

"When you place that breathing tube, you can be exposed to a high-load virus," Dr. Rai said. "We try to take the precautions and focus on the greater good, and that is helping as many people as we can."

Dr. Rai says he plans to help as long as he can and calls on anyone who can help on the front lines to volunteer in hopes of keeping the numbers from rising.

"We have to mobilize manpower and that means doctors and nurses who are willing to relocate to provide care," Dr. Rai said. "This disease is real. If this hits, it can hit hard."

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