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Doctor puts off retirement to fight coronavirus in Arizona

Dr. Shamma explains workarounds for PPE shortages
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Posted at 6:19 PM, Apr 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-06 22:57:15-04

BULLHEAD CITY, AZ — A Pulmonologist working in western Arizona said she and her colleagues are managing the supply shortages and other challenges while caring for COVID-19 patients.

Dr. Zainab Shamma, 64, is a traveling doctor who specializes in critical care and respiratory illness. Recently she worked at hospitals in California and Arizona.

"The need is unbelievable," Shamma said. "I get calls from everywhere to get coverage."

Dr. Shamma spoke to ABC15 last weekend. She was assigned at Western Arizona Regional Medical Center in Bullhead City. She explained most of her patients have been elderly with other health issues like cancer and COPD. She said patients with COVID-19 symptoms are placed in the same area of the hospital, while they wait for tests to come back.

"It takes at least eight days before we get the results of the viral testing," Shamma said. She added some patients already improve and go home to isolation before the results come back.

Shamma and other health care workers reuse N95 masks and other PPE, even items generally considered disposable.

"The mask can last up to a week," Shamma said. "You really feel like you can't breathe anymore - this is it - before you change it to the newer mask, so it's such a pleasure to get a new mask."

Other hospital staffers are trying to find workarounds for ventilators.

"I know they have tried to experiment using one ventilator for two patients for the future, but we have not had to do that yet," Shamma said.

Dr. Shamma is in the high-risk category, herself, due to her age. She was semi-retired before the pandemic hit, but she put herself in the danger zone hoping to save lives.

"This is not the time to say it's time to rest now," Shamma said. "I am needed."