Community creates meal train for Port St. Lucie doctor volunteering in NY

'It's a blessing to be able to do this,' Dr. Mark Pamer says
Posted at 7:48 AM, May 13, 2020

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — A doctor’s calling is to help people. One Treasure Coast doctor said that calling is a responsibility and a passion that has led him to sacrifice, pack up and head to New York.

Dr. Mark Pamer, a critical care pulmonologist, is volunteering for one month in the epicenter of the coronavirus fight. His practice is in Port Saint Lucie, but his current patients are in the intensive care unit at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, New York. His wife Sarah is holding down the homefront with their children, his office staff is picking up the slack for his local patients and the community, even strangers, are sending their support to him from afar while he’s gone.

“It’s long hours and there’s personal commitment and there’s physical fatigue, but I love what I’m doing and I think it’s a blessing to be able to do this,” Pamer said.

His days are trying and tiring beyond belief. He is journaling his month-long volunteer journey on Facebook. He details everything from what it takes for him to get to the intensive care unit each day through the deserted city streets to what he has seen the virus do to the people he is caring for, the challenges his medical team faces each shift and the incredible volunteer support he has witnessed in New York.

Early on, Pamer described his end-of-the day routine which includes a one mile walk from the subway back to his hotel, stripping down and soaking things in disinfectant before sitting down on his “dining room table” (his hotel bed) to eat whatever it is that was passed out to the volunteer medical staff on their way out of the hospital by other people volunteering at the hospital.

Pamer’s cousin, Therese Pittinger Ware, has been following his posts. She took note of the small, cold dinner he was eating after a 15-hour day in the ICU and decided to set up a meal train. The response has been overwhelming. She says family members, friends, other doctors and even people who have never met Pamer, including co-workers of hers at FedEx in Ohio, have contributed to sending him meals from a diner near his New York City hotel, boxes of snacks and even taking care of his laundry.

“People were coming out of the woodwork. How can I help, how can I feed him, how can I feed him,” Ware said.

Pamer said his faith has kept him strong and this new support system has lifted him up beyond belief. He ends most of his posts with phrases from the biblical verse, Matthew 25:31-46 and his cousin took note.

“He really does live by Matthew 25," Ware said. "And part of Matthew 25 is, 'For I hungry, and you fed me. You know, I was sick, and you cared for me.' So, he’s doing the sick and cared for me part, we’re going to do the hungry and fed me part for him.”

The first day Pamer returned to his room to find a warm meal from the nearby diner, he said it made him emotional.

“That was a little overwhelming for me. And I teared up because it’s really not about me. I just wanted to help other people,” Pamer said.

Pamer said the amount of people coming into Elmhurst Hospital is unlike anything he has personally ever seen. He’s working alongside other physicians, residency students and nurses also volunteering their time to help the staff at Elmhurst. Dr. Pamer feels his unique expertise in critical care pulmonology could not be sidelined and his love for the job and helping people called him to the epicenter.

Most recently, Pamer updated his online writings by saying while the number of cases in New York may be decreasing, the severity of the people he is caring for remains the same. He says he is seeing more people who have survived the respiratory disaster but are left with other severe conditions such as brain injury and clotting in every part of the body. You can read his detailed posts here.

Pamer will be volunteering in New York until Memorial Day.