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Where Discovery Creates Hope

Bevan’s Story: A front row seat on a devastating pandemic – and the people fighting it

Dr. Bevan Yueh wants to make one thing clear: He’s no hero. Just a member of a team alarmed by an approaching pandemic. Just a member of a team hustling to open Bethesda as an all COVID-19 hospital. Just a member of a team who wound up being one of its first patients.

“I think part of it is a sense of guilt,” says Dr. Yueh. “Here I was, a physician, a healer who’s supposed to be taking care of people.”

Observes Dr. Jakub Tolar: “He saw both sides of this terrifying disease. And that gives him an incredible opportunity to do justice to the hardship of the pandemic.”

Watch Bevan's Story

I deteriorated quickly

The Bethesda Hospital conversion team formed in early March, after hearing shocking frontline reports from colleagues in China, Seattle, and New York City.

One Sunday, Dr. Yueh noticed a small cough. He attributed it, at first, to neglecting to fill his asthma medication.

The next morning, he couldn’t taste his toothpaste.

When test results confirmed his suspicions, Dr. Yueh hunkered down at home. His temperature spiked. His cough worsened.

Tori and Dr Geller

I was a very bad patient

Still, he couldn’t let go of his work, dismissing concerns of colleagues who noticed, on calls, that he could hardly finish a sentence without coughing.

They contacted his worried wife and sent over an instrument to measure his oxygen saturation level. Just a few days later, he was in the emergency room, then on his way to Bethesda.

Symptoms worsened, including one he hadn’t anticipated. “The nightmares were really terrifying,” Dr. Yueh says.

Eleven fretful, sleepless days and nights later, a shaken Dr. Yueh ventured home. When he suffered a brief relapse, after doing too much too fast, he finally gave himself the time to recover.

“This virus is not like the flu,” he says.

Dr Tolar and Dr Geller
Photo courtesy of Fairview Health Services

Pandemic progress

Dr. Yueh’s wife and daughter tested positive, but both recovered at home. His son, somehow, never contracted the disease. Dr. Yueh’s mother, living in an assisted living facility, wound up in Bethesda shortly after him. Through her experience, Dr. Yueh saw academic medicine in action, doctors and nurses learning, adapting, innovating.

“In just three weeks, treatment had improved. They stopped therapies that weren’t proven and added new ones, like plasma from recovered patients. It was like a year of progress had been made,” he says.

Tori and husband
Photo courtesy of Fairview Health Services

Acknowledged and thanked.

Dr. Yueh’s back. More determined than ever to help. One important insight he brings to the fight is that there’s an emotional toll to COVID-19, as well as a physical one. It bothered him tremendously that he was sidelined for so long, not being able to help, to serve, to do what he was trained to do. “I thought, I used to be strong. Now, I’m useless.”

But, as humbling as the disease was, Dr. Yueh saw something bigger. Something better. Something that gave him a tremendous amount of hope and pride: A team of brave colleagues, rising to meet, to fight, to defeat this formidable foe.

RESPONDING TO A PANDEMIC: Bethesda Hospital. Two weeks. That’s how long it took a team from the joint partners of M Health Fairview to come together and create one of the first, and still one of the few, COVID-only hospitals in the U.S. The benefit? An expert care team learning from each patient how to take better care of the next one. More than 475 patients later, this strategy has shown the power of shared experience to improve treatments for COVID-19 and has resulted in one of the best intensive care survival rates in the U.S.

Science of COVID-19:

COVID-19 is a virus that usually has symptoms like fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, and loss of taste or smell.
Think you are sick? Diagnostic testing can detect the genetic material from the virus. A positive test indicates an active COVID-19 infection. A negative result does not rule out infection. If you have symptoms, consider self-quarantine for at least 10 days after they start or 3 after they end.
Some people never have symptoms and may not even know they’re infected. Others become sick enough to require hospitalization and even intensive care.
Your body produces antibodies to fight the virus. Antibodies are proteins that help your immune system attack infection. They are usually detectable in your blood 14 days after you are infected.
If you have been sick and no longer have symptoms, you may benefit from antibody testing. The presence of COVID-19 antibodies in your blood means you have had the virus and are probably protected against re-infection at this time.
Antibodies are circulated in our plasma, the colorless liquid portion of our blood. Plasma from recovered patients contains antibodies and can be used to boost the immune response of the sickest patients.
Dr. Melissa Geller

Dr. Bevan Yueh

Professor and Department Chair of Department of Otolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery, University of Minnesota Medical School; Interim CEO, M Physicians

“You learn lessons about your own limitations. You think that you can do everything for everybody and once in a while you have to dial it back.”

Dr. Jakub Tolar

Dr. Jakub Tolar

Dean of the University of Minnesota Medical School

The University of Minnesota Medical School, M Physicians, and Fairview Health Services created a joint partnership to combine strengths of a large healthcare provider and academic medicine. The M Health Fairview partnership brought together critical care physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, hospitalists, and administrators to assess the pandemic healthcare needs and prepare an innovative response that transformed Bethesda into a highly specialized COVID-19-only hospital.

Resources:

Inspired

M Physicians:

University of Minnesota Campus Public Health Office:

M Health Fairview COVID-19 testing information:

M Health Fairview 24/7 virtual clinic:

Resources on COVID-19 in MN:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 information: