USA

Stories that stayed with us from 2021

(Sally Deng / For The Times)

Dr. Courtney Martin reached for her phone, opened the notes app to an empty screen and began to write.

I want to write about Karl. This is a long essay, but it’s because I love to write. Perhaps it’s my therapy, and perhaps it’s because Karl deserves to be noticed. Every hospital has a Karl.

Martin is the head of maternity services at Loma Linda University Medical Center, an accomplished physician and surgeon, a dynamic presence.

Karl is an all-but-invisible man. He works in the massive medical center’s dispatch department, wheeling patients from hospital rooms to radiology for MRIs and CT scans. He does not like attention. Martin, however, wants the world to know who Karl is and what he does. She calls him “this healthcare hero.”

Due to the pandemic, Karl became the person who moved the dead bodies from the rooms, then took them to the morgue. Maybe this was a job before the pandemic — I’m not sure. And, on the surface, this doesn’t seem that bad. But in a pandemic, Karl became the body collector.

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