Esteemed New York City physician Dr. Lorna Breen died at the University of Virginia Hospital on Sunday, April 26, according to police. Charlottesville authorities responded to a call for medical assistance in the 1800 block of Winston Road, but Dr. Breen later succumbed to her self-inflicted injuries. She worked on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic as the medical director of the emergency department at NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital.
Charlottesville Police Chief RaShall Brackney released a statement on Monday. Brackney addressed the terrible effects of the global crisis on those who take care of others for a living.
”Frontline healthcare professionals and first responders are not immune to the mental or physical effects of the current pandemic,” said Brackney. “On a daily basis, these professionals operate under the most stressful of circumstances, and the coronavirus has introduced additional stressors. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) can reduce the likelihood of being infected, but what they cannot protect heroes like Dr. Lorna Breen, or our first responders against is the emotional and mental devastation caused by this disease.”
The father of the deceased, Dr. Philip Breen, told The New York Times that his daughter “was truly in the trenches” as she treated infected patients, and had described the devastating toll of the disease. The younger Dr. Breen fell ill with the coronavirus herself, but tried to return to work after recuperating. When the hospital sent her home, she came to Charlottesville to be with family.
“She tried to do her job, and it killed her,” Dr. Philip Breen said. “Make sure she’s praised as a hero, because she was. She’s a casualty just as much as anyone else who has died.”
NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia also provided a statement to the press, with chief spokesperson Lucky Tran remarking that words “cannot convey the sense of loss we feel today.”
“Dr. Breen is a hero who brought the highest ideals of medicine to the challenging front lines of the emergency department,” Tran’s statement read. “Our focus today is to provide support to her family, friends and colleagues as they cope with this news during what is already an extraordinarily difficult time.”
If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide, help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Trained counselors are available 24/7.
For University of Virginia Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS), click here.