Medical director, Intensive Care Unit, Aventura Hospital & Medical Center
Background: As medical director of the ICU, Danckers specializes in the care of the medical and surgical critically ill. In addition, he is an assistant professor of clinical medicine at Nova Southeastern University’s Kiran C. Patel College of Allopathic Medicine, where he was recently awarded Teacher of the Year for his commitment to graduate medical education. Board certified in internal, pulmonary and critical care medicine, Danckers is uniquely positioned to fight the coronavirus pandemic from all angles––both as a doctor treating patients on the front lines, and as a director helping ensure the hospital remains as prepared and equipped as possible.
Pandemic stories: Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Danckers has witnessed the sheer panic that overcomes patients just minutes before they are placed on ventilators due to COVID-19 complications.
“We’re up close and personal with the virus,” he says. “It hurts and it’s incredibly challenging, both as a doctor and a human being.”
He has watched as they scramble to text and phone family members, with warnings that this may be their last phone call. “There’s no way to know if in these moments, this will be the last time the patient speaks with their family,” he says. “There’s also no way to know if in these moments, this is the last time a loved one sees their family member alive.”
Weeks before the pandemic reached South Florida, Danckers and his team of ICU medical professionals were busy preparing for the worst. No one could have predicted what they would ultimately experience. “April was a really harsh month,” he says. “We lost a lot of people, and we saved a lot of people. We thought that was the worst of it. Now we know we were wrong. This is our new reality.”
Similar to most medical professionals, Danckers never pictured himself fighting a pandemic. Though he has been in the field for more than a decade, the ramifications of COVID-19 are still difficult to grasp.
“Physicians are not supposed to be scared,” he says. “As an ICU doctor, I run into the problem, not away from it. We see the sickest of the sickest. … But health care professionals are human, too. We can get sick, we have families we’re worried about, and above all, we’re doing our best to treat every patient without overwhelming the system.
“Coronavirus has proven to be an uphill battle. This isn’t something that will come and go. This is reshaping the way we see the future.”
Photo by Eduardo Schneider