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Riley doctor posts picture of himself crying as hospital reports high admissions rate

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A doctor at Riley Hospital for Children is getting attention and support from across the country after he shared a photo of himself crying at work on Twitter.

Dr. Adam Hill, division chief of pediatric palliative care at Riley, said burnout of health care workers is the worst he’s ever experienced. While Hill is known for being vulnerable on social media, he said his latest tweet may be one of his most important.

“You know, feeling the cumulative weight of the last year and a half and having rising tension and apprehension for what these coming weeks and months will once again hold in a new wave of this pandemic, especially one that will affect children in different and more serious ways, was this moment,” Hill said.

While he doesn’t typically care for COVID patients, he said still feels the effects of the virus. On Thursday, his emotions were echoed by his colleagues when they held a virtual meeting to be transparent about what hospitals are dealing with.

Doctors on the call said this latest COVID-19 surge is having a more serious impact on children. Doctors said they in just the past week have seen 70 kids test positive for the coronavirus.

Dr. John Christenson, medical director of infection prevention at Riley, said, “The number of children that are hospitalized today has been the highest that we’ve had in several months and several of these children are in intensive care units so we know that they’re quite sick and some of these children have been transferred from other institutions.”

It’s put doctors in a bind. They said, because hospitals across the country are short-staffed, they’re caring for more patients with fewer resources.

Dr. Brian Wager, associate chief medical officer and an emergency medicine physician at Riley, said, “We don’t live in a bubble, right? We communicate with our colleagues around the country and around the world for that matter, and I’ve not seen it like this in the past in terms of just folks are exhausted.”

That’s why Hill said the meaning behind his message holds a little more weight right now.

“Part of the tears that I shared is that we have to find spaces to make sure we’re working through that together so that we can hopefully continue to show up for the people who are in need,” Hill said.

Because of the increase in patients, doctors are asking parents to only bring children to the emergency room for true emergencies. They said COVID testing can be done through primary care doctors or even urgent care.