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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas
Houston PA Deploys to Fight COVID-19
By Todd Goodman, Public Affairs Specialist
Friday, May 1, 2020Aji Kurian, a captain in the U.S. Army Reserves and physician assistant with Neurology’s Stroke Team at the Houston VA Medical Center, deployed on April 4 to fight COVID-19 in Boston. What he found was a ghost town with empty streets and full hospital beds.
“We still are able to shop in Texas,” said Kurian. “There is nothing open here. The streets are empty. Even the restaurants and shopping centers are closed. When you get on the streets, you don’t see anyone. If you see a car, it’s most likely a police car.”
Kurian is with the Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force, 801st Combat Support Hospital. His unit helped stand up a makeshift 1,000-bed hospital in the Boston Convention Center to support Mass General Hospital. He works six days per week from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. caring for patients who were intubated but still require oxygen.
“We provide acute care services when the patients come out of intensive care,” said Kurian. “They are still critical and need to be quarantined for 14 days. They convalesce in our center.”
Kurian spends much of his time caring for the homeless, a group that has been hit hard by Coronavirus.
“I see a lot of homeless people,” he said. “They don’t have anywhere they can be discharged. They can’t return to their previous living arrangements because they may make everyone else at the shelter sick. Discharge and everything else has been very challenging. But it has been a rewarding experience because these people would not get care otherwise.” Kurian, who joined the reserves in 2017, did so to help out in cases just like this.
“For me, this is the reason I signed up, to provide care in an unprecedented time,” he said. “I’m very happy that I’m able to provide for the people of this country and improve the health of others.”
Nearing a month into his first deployment, there is no timetable as to when he might return to his job in Houston.
“Depending on what the Coronavirus does, I may be here six months or rotate home within 90 days,” he said. “I just don’t know.”
Serving in his current environment, surrounded by COVID-19 patients, the thought of getting ill is something he thinks about often.
“That’s always in the back of my mind because I have kids and a wife,” he said. “Those thoughts go through your mind. The exposure risk is very high.”
Kurian recently lost a friend to the virus. He was 47 years old and in perfect health.
“You never know how it is going to affect you until you get it,” he said. “But as long as you wear PPE, take care of yourself, social distance, and wash your hands, the chances of you getting it are fairly low. I feel fully protected with the measures in place.”