#eyeheroes Series, Issue 2;
During the COVID-19 outbreak, many ophthalmologists provided essential medical care. In our second newsletter, New World Medical recognizes the efforts of Dr. Teddy Lyu.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the New World Medical team has regularly checked in with ophthalmologists across the country. We have heard remarkable stories of dedicated physicians who stepped in to help. In this article, we highlight the efforts of Dr. Teddy Lyu and his team, who assisted COVID-19 patients at Elmhurst Hospital. His friends and colleagues, Dr. Cristos Ifantides and Dr. Sarah Avila, nominated Dr. Lyu and contributed to this story.
Dr. Teddy Lyu: A Committed Physician
Dr. Lyu is a fellowship-trained and board-certified ophthalmologist in Brooklyn, New York. In addition to his medical practice, he is an award-winning, beloved Assistant Professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Dr. Lyu often teaches his residents at Elmhurst Hospital, located in Queens. He is married to a physician, and they have three young children.
Dr. Lyu’s Long Hours Make an Impact
According to The New York Times and other sources, Elmhurst Hospital was one of the hardest hit during New York’s coronavirus outbreak. The media described “apocalyptic” conditions, with the hospital sometimes operating at 125% capacity. New York’s mayor, Bill DeBlasio, commented, “Elmhurst Hospital is at the center of responding to this crisis. It ‘s the No. 1 priority of our public hospital system right now”.
When COVID-19 began to appear in New York and Elmhurst Hospital’s ophthalmology clinic became “emergencies only”, Dr. Lyu did not hesitate to step in. As soon as his residents, including Dr. Avila, voluntarily redeployed to fight the novel coronavirus, he quickly volunteered his services in both the emergency room (ER) and on the COVID-19 floors so that he could help sick patients and be with his team. On top of volunteering his services in those two departme- nts, he was also treating glaucoma patients who had COVID-19 so that they could
keep their vision.
Dr. Ifantides, who first became good friends with Dr. Lyu as a medical student, was not surprised about Dr. Lyu’s commitment to the COVID-19 crisis in New York City.
“Teddy’s a soft-spoken person, but he’s very dedicated to his patients. He’d do anything for them,” he notes. “He’s the kind of doctor who will go above and beyond, even when no one is watching.”
Many sick patients were severely ill and needed oxygen supply or oxygen level monitoring. Available oxygen tanks were small; patients would typically run out of oxygen within an hour or two. Additionally, oxygen monitors were not available and were in short supply. As a result, Dr. Lyu and his team were constantly manually checking patients for hypoxia, monitoring tank levels, and replacing oxygen tanks. It was a constant grind, but the ophthalmologist and his residents never stopped. They knew that their work would let the ER’s doctors and other specialists focus on stabilizing more critically ill patients.
Dr. Avila recalls their time together. “As soon as we stepped into the ER, we went right into focus mode,” she notes. The ER was continually over its capacity. When they ran out of beds, they began to line-up patients in pods, beds ,and chairs. “There wasn’t room to walk,” she recalls. “Some patients would have to sit in a chair for two or three days until a bed became available.”
Dr. Lyu’s care was limitless; He would carry weakened patients to the bathroom while they waited in the ER or checked on them to make sure they were okay. “Dr. Lyu was doing nursing jobs, janitorial jobs, technician jobs, anything he could do to help,” Dr. Avila notes. He would even remind people with COVID-19 to eat, drink and charge their cell phones, the basics that are typically overlooked in chaos but meaningful for patients.
It took weeks, but eventually, conditions in the ER improved. Elmhurst Hospital shifted its need for volunteer services from the ER to the ICU where most patients were intubated. “If you’re that sick, you cannot talk to your family. You cannot operate a cell phone or text,” notes Dr. Avila.
While many ophthalmologists have gone back to treating glaucoma patients full time, Dr. Lyu, to this day, is volunteering his time in the ICU if help is needed, even when he is not on call as a volunteer. Right now, his focus remains on sick patients and their families. He gives patients’ families as much time as they need to talk through the situation or ask questions. He will even sit there with an iPad facilitating FaceTime since family members are not permitted in the ICU. He even lets families know when their loved ones finally open their eyes.
His relentless commitment to helping people during the COVID-19 crisis has not waned. Thank you, Dr. Lyu, for your ongoing service, dedication, and sacrifice as a physician to the people of New York.