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Dr. Joseph Varon, the chief medical officer of the Houston Memorial Unit Medical Center, arrives home after a long day of work. Callaghan O’Hare / Reuters

Dr. Joseph Varon has not had a day off for months.

Friday was his 134th consecutive day leading the coronavirus unit at Memorial Medical Center in Houston.

“If you ask me how the hell I was able to survive for 134 days non-stop, I guess it’s adrenaline,” he said. “But I’m running with smoke. It’s hard.”

And last week was still the toughest. With Houston, which saw an increase in Covid-19 cases, he signed more death certificates than he has at any point in his career.

“People were dying every day,” he said.

Varon and his team go through patient files during a daily meeting. “I’m afraid at some point I’ll have to make some very serious decisions,” Varon said in July.
Varon and his team go through patient files during a daily meeting. “I’m afraid at some point I’ll have to make some very serious decisions,” Varon said in July. “I’m starting to get the idea that I can’t save everyone.” Callaghan O’Hare / Reuters

Varon’s workday begins soon. Around 4:30 or 5 a.m., he goes to the hospital and goes directly to the coronavirus unit where he and his team go over each patient’s case.

Then start doing the rounds.

“He’s involved with everything and very, very personal,” the photographer said Callaghan O’Hare, which overshadowed him on several occasions over the past month. “He’ll sit on the bed with people and hug and chat. It’s very amazing to see him.”

He cared for patients with coronavirus it takes a minimum of 10 hours each day, Varon said. After that, he meets with the other patients in the hospital, those who do not have coronavirus.

“If I’m lucky, I’ll get home before ten o’clock at night. If I’m not lucky, which is most of the time, I do it at home around midnight, ”he said.

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