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Ground zero

Dr. Steven Short finds different ways to express himself during trying times. He has drawn skylines, landmarks, and people who he came to know during his time as a volunteer physician in New York City.

The April 24 video on Steven Short’s Facebook page is one of triumph. Staff at Woodhull Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, line the halls, clapping, cheering. A patient, recovered and clear of COVID-19, is being wheeled out of the hospital.

It’s a bright spot in ground zero of the pandemic.

Dr. Short, a 1983 graduate of ATSU-KCOM, was quick to answer the call when he saw an urgent request for volunteers from the American College of Chest Physicians. A pulmonary/critical care physician in Manhattan, Kansas, he’d be a long way from home in New York City, but as the coronavirus spread, it was where doctors were most needed.

He chronicled his entire journey on his Facebook page. It’s a day-by-day accounting of death, life, struggle, and faith.

And it’s a longer story than initially planned. Dr. Short’s assignment was set to be five days, the first of which was April 13. Before the day was out, he posted to his page those plans had changed.

“I have decided to stay longer, only because the situation is so bad and the need is so great,” Dr. Short wrote.

He found he was the only specialist of his kind in a hospital seeing 200 new positive COVID-19 patients daily. Dr. Short described “unbelievable ventilator cases” using “antiquated machines” in short supply. Staff members explained when cases first exploded, sick patients were stuck in hallways until the hospital had resources to treat them.

“…(They) had to stay there until a patient died so they could bring them up to the unit,” he wrote April 15.

The pandemic inundated healthcare workers with challenges, including personal ones. It’s apparent at first glance of his Facebook page that Dr. Short is a deeply religious man.

“My faith is part of my practice,” he said. “I have always prayed with my patients, or patient’s family, in critically difficult times.”

The pandemic robbed people of many things, including those opportunities for personal interactions.

“My greatest love of medicine has been relational, bringing human quality to the forefront, sitting with families, praying with families, answering questions, looking at faces,” he wrote April 16. “None of that is possible. This virus has dictated a new world way.”

He began every day in New York by contacting his wife in Kansas, and they prayed together. It was a way to restore and reset in the face of a grim reality.

Dr. Short found different ways to express himself during these difficult times. He’s something of an artist, drawing skylines, landmarks, and people who he came to know and call friends.

“My art is expressed more dramatically when there is an inner need to express,” he said. “Pain, emotion, love, I have to express in the picture. There are times they reflect more of the qualities I wouldn’t have the ability to express otherwise.”

April 25 marked Dr. Short’s final day at Woodhull. He returned to Kansas, spent two weeks in quarantine, and is back serving his patients.

He’s hopeful the world learns lessons from the pandemic.

“I have never seen a disease this devastating. It is rewriting the book on medical care,” Dr. Short said. “We have to be better at early detection and rapid control. Let us pray that we will.”

Dr. Short also uses words to express himself. Below is a poem he posted April 22.

Releasing the control
I am amazed that I am doing this
I did not hesitate to come
My faith, my life experiences, God’s path
My trust in Him
The purpose? Healing? Nurturing? Sharing love?
The open vessel and the ear to hear
I am so thankful for this moment in time to be here.


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