NYC cardiologist – and COVID-19 survivor – helps Hispanics fight the virus

“I had a lot of patients that were panicking,” he said. “I’ve been trying to help my Latino community, which has been neglected. Some had symptoms; some of them had heart problems that we could not attribute to COVID-19 at the time, but we learned later there are implications of the heart from the virus. During that time, I had to diagnose and treat via video camera without a stethoscope. It was a learning process where I had to apply both art and medicine, because this has been a learning process and sometimes all you can do is go with your gut feelings.”

One of those highly troubled patients was Fermina Gomez, whose husband of 26 years died on April 5 of complications from the virus. Although Gomez tested negative, she developed symptoms around the time of her husband’s death, including fever, body aches, joint stiffness, headaches and a fast heart rate. Gomez reached out to Kottiech, who treats her for high blood pressure, or hypertension.

“I was really scared,” said Gomez, who has a 15-year-old daughter. “I was having symptoms, and I had been exposed. I couldn’t sleep thinking that I could not die and leave my daughter by herself.

“I call Dr. Kottiech my guardian angel because he’s the only one that gave me a hand when I needed it,” she said. “He treated me emotionally and psychologically and he adjusted my medicines. This thing is a monster, but in my most desperate and difficult times, Dr. Kottiech treated me with so much empathy.”

The disproportionate number of COVID-19 cases and deaths among Hispanic and African American populations in New York City has served to highlight economic and health care disparities that long predate the crisis.

“We know that Latinos and African Americans are more susceptible to suffer from hypertension, obesity, diabetes and coronary artery disease, which means these populations have underlying conditions that put them more at risk of developing severity of COVID,” Kottiech said.