Dr. Lorna M. Breen was the chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the New York-Presbyterian Allen Hospital.
Dr. Lorna M. Breen is being remembered as a hero after she tragically took her own life on Sunday, April 26. Dr. Breen, the chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the New York-Presbyterian Allen Hospital, was at the frontlines of New York City’s coronavirus battle.
The Charlottesville Police Department in Virginia, where 49-year-old Dr. Breen had been staying with family, confirmed her death on Monday, April 27.
Charlottesville PD said in a statement that they responded to a call for medical assistance on Sunday, April 26. “The victim, identified as Dr. Lorna Breen, a resident of New York City, was taken to UVA Hospital for treatment where she later succumbed to self-inflicted injuries."
Police Chief RaShall Brackney said: “Frontline healthcare professionals and first responders are not immune to the mental or physical effects of the current pandemic.
"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," added Brackney.
Dr. Breen’s father, retired trauma surgeon Dr. Philip C. Breen, told The New York Times: "She tried to do her job, and it killed her.”
Dr. Breen said that Lorna had contracted coronavirus and took about a week and a half off to recover. Upon her return to work, however, she was unable to complete a 12-hour shift.
At the recommendation of a doctor friend, Lorna went to stay with her family in Virginia, CNN reports. There, she was hospitalized for a week and treated for exhaustion. When she was released, she stayed with her mother, and then her sister.
While Dr. Breen said his daughter had no history of mental illness, Lorna seemed "detached" and he was concerned about her.
New York City remains a hotspot for coronavirus within the US. As of Tuesday evening, there were more than 17,600 deaths in the city. Lorna recounted to her family the trauma of seeing so many patients die before even being removed from ambulances.
“She was truly in the trenches of the front line,” Dr. Breen said of his daughter. “She went down in the trenches and was killed by the enemy on the front line.”
Dr. Breen added: "She loved New York and wouldn't hear about living anywhere else. She loved her coworkers and did what she could for them.”
“I just want people to know how special she was,” Lorna's father 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.”
On April 27, Columbia University Irving Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian released the following statement: "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.
"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."
On April 28, Columbia Medical remembered Dr. Breen has a "true hero:"
Dr. Lorna Breen was a true hero. The tragedy of her death underscores that we must openly address mental health needs during the #COVID19 crisis, as even the bravest are vulnerable. Our hearts go out to her family, many friends, & colleagues. The @Columbia family stands with you. pic.twitter.com/TsFcSq7lQ4— Columbia Medicine (@ColumbiaMed) April 28, 2020