One of world’s hardest working doctors has only taken TWO days off since the start of pandemic – to walk his daughter down the aisle.
Dr Joseph Varon, 59, dubbed the ‘COVID Hunter’, has worked 637 days (as of 16/12) with barely a day off since March 19, 2020.
But when his medical student daughter got married in July, he finally took his first well-earned break to walk her down the aisle – but was back after two days.
Before that he hadn’t taken a single break from work for well over a year.
Self-proclaimed ‘COVID-ologist’ Dr Varon said he simply hasn’t had time to stop as chief of staff at the United Memorial Medical Center (UMCC) in Houston, Texas, USA.
And he has no intentions of taking any time off this Christmas.
The doctor said: “When in the middle of the wedding and she’s dancing I got phone calls from patients.
“I could not fully disconnect, that doesn’t go down well with the family but it’s the job we chose.
“I will need Santa Clause at the hospital!
“For me it’s just another day.
“One of the things that have changed my life – days mean nothing to me anymore, for me Monday is the same as a Sunday.
“I don’t get excited about the weekends – what’s to be excited its just another day?”
The exhausted physician wakes up at 5am and returns home at 11pm every day, and struggles to get more than a few hours sleep.
He hadn’t taken a single day off work since March 19 2020, up until his daughter Daryelle, 28, married her long-time partner in Cancun in July.
Joseph said: “I get on a plane which was for me was like ‘wow!’
“Before COVID I would travel 20% to 30% of my time, there was one year I travelled 280,000 miles.
“So for the first time for God knows how many months you get the sensation that I am free, I am getting on a plane.
“I’m such a frequent flyer but I felt I was a newbie.
“But the sensations of being away from the hospital I have mixed feelings – we’ve done a lot of work, I don’t want anyone else to screw it up!
“I kept on calling the hospital on a regular basis making sure it was going OK.
“The patients did well, I realise I could be able to get out without major things going wrong.
“I went to the beach, I told my daughter the wedding is at night but I’ll be on the beach during the day.
“Even though I have my phone and computer around me in my cabana, at least I can see humans walking through the beach.
“I actually found a cabana that had a electricity, so I was constantly checking X-rays.
“I have built a reputation in COVID I have to maintain, there are a lot of people that are sick but it worked out well.”
Dr Varon estimates that prior to the wedding his last proper day off – when he did no hospital work – was in February last year.
He travelled to Orlando to give a lecture, and took his wife Sara Varon, 55, out for dinner.
He said: “It’s been tough on the spouse and on my adult children. It’s been tough for everybody.
“One thing I miss because when I travel on the plane nobody bugs you!”
He plans to take his second holiday on New Year’s day to celebrate his father turning 97, who he talks to every day.
As well as Daryelle, another two of his four children were married this year but he didn’t need to take time off as they were local to him.
“Literally I went to the hospital, I went to the wedding, and then went back to the hospital,” he said.
He celebrated the birth of his first grandchild, Avi, on October 12 who was born to his eldest Adylle, but still couldn’t take time off.
“For first couple of days he was on ICU and respirator, can you imagine how I was feeling?” said Joseph.
Joseph got updates from his family through his mobile while working in the ICU on COVID patients.
He said: “I’m in the ICU taking care of patients and my grandson is in the ICU of another hospital so that was very tough and I don’t wish it on anybody.
“I have to focus and concentrate on my patients but same time I’m a grandfather who has his grandchild at hospital.
“He did fine, he’s amazing.
“Now, when I can, I escape in the middle of the day to my daughter’s home to check on the baby.
“I have bought him everything, I bought him a Bugatti car with pedals and the kid is not even walking!”
Joseph made international news in November 2020 when he was photographed hugging a COVID patient whilst wearing PPE, and since then has gained a legion of supporters.
He said: “As I’m walking through the hallway I suddenly see one of my patients in his room, disconnected from all the monitors, and crying like a baby like there’s no tomorrow!
“He’s 78 years of age, and he feels very, very sad, but I didn’t know at that stage if it was because of pain.
“It’s Thanksgiving day, so he wants to be with his family and is feeling lonely, I think anybody with a bit of emotion would hold him and let him relax.
“I didn’t even remember that he had COVID.”
Despite some highs, the hero doc says the new Omicron variant is unfortunately still “keeping him busy”.
He said: “95% unvaccinated – I have no problem if people don’t vaccinate for real reasons but you need to hear some of the nonsense they tell me.
“Because of the negligence of doing things right – whether talking about mask, social distancing or vaccination – I’m still in the hospital.
“I beg people to please do the right things, not just to save their lives but to save my own life – I’m exhausted.
“I’m not trying to get the Guinness World Record although I should call them!
“A lot of people say I should take a sabbatical but I can’t ethically.
“I cannot leave my job until there is control of COVID but I don’t know when that’s going to be,
“I know it sounds selfish but for me to really get some rest we are going to have to get this under control – I don’t want to rest in peace!”