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From the frontlines, military doctors at HCMC explain what it's like working with COVID patients in the ER

Ten days ago, the Department of Defense sent a 23-member team to help doctors in Minneapolis. Here's what they've seen so far.

HCMC is where you go when other hospitals don't have room. It's where rural hospitals and emergency departments send some of the most serious cases, from car crashes to gun shot victims to COVID-19 patients. 

But what do they do when even they can't keep up?

They put out the call for reinforcements, and the Department of Defense answered that call, with a team of 23 military doctors, nurses and specialists like Dr. Marcus Sinewe.

"It's the worst thing imaginable,” Dr. Sinewe says.

Dr. Sinewe and his colleagues arrived 10 days ago, some from the Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, others from Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. And in that time, they've already seen so much.

"These are people that come in and can't breathe, and their hearts and lungs don't function like they're supposed to,” Sinewe said.

"And these patients are very, very ill, and I think what is frustrating as a physician is there's only so much we can do for some patients. This is such a deadly illness that not everyone can be saved. That's a really difficult thing."

Dr. Sinewe says it has been inspiring to work with the doctors and nurses at HCMC who have been battling this virus nonstop for nearly two years.

"There's a degree of moral injury that walks hand in hand with this kind of stuff, because every day we're watching people die. And there's nothing easy about that, but at the same time, everyone I'm seeing here are just so professional and just every day they're being asked to do more and they're doing it,” Dr. Sinewe said.

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For Dr. Sinewe, this is his first time being deployed to help a medical center in need, but for some on his team, it's their second, some their third time being sent in to help.

"I do believe that this is the finest hour of our specialty. We are providing high level care in the worst circumstances that we've seen in this country in decades," Dr. Sinewe said.

But despite all the hardship and despair, Dr. Sinewe says he has hope for the future, as long as we continue to work together as a nation.

"I think there's nothing we can't overcome together," he said. "I'm seeing that here on the ground in Minnesota. That's the only way that we're going to get through this, is together. So, we have to kind of lift each other up."

The team from the Department of Defense is scheduled to be in Minneapolis for 30 days, but they are prepared to stay longer if COVID cases stay high.

There is also another 23-member team that is working out of CentraCare in St. Cloud.

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