MOSCOW — As he strides down the sidewalk outside Moscow's Filatov Hospital in blue jeans and garish crimson shoes, Dr. Osman Osmanov shows no signs of the rigors he's just been through.
But behind the veneer of calm is a yearning for relief from countless days of laboring to save the lives of the stream of coronavirus victims who come into the hospital on gurneys, frightened and struggling to breathe.
"Frankly speaking, I just want to be in silence for a couple of days. I would like to go somewhere in the mountains where there is no cell phone signal, so I can sit quietly and have some air," the 40-year-old intensive care physician told The Associated Press at the end of yet another long shift at the epicenter of Russia's coronavirus outbreak.
He smiles hesitantly when he expresses the wish, as if confessing a secret.
Moscow accounts for about half of all of Russia's 335,000 coronavirus cases and 3,288 deaths, a deluge that strains the city's hospitals and has forced Osmanov to to work every day for the past two months, sometimes for 24 hours at a time.
The demands are intense; the rewards are gratifying.
"When a patient starts suffocating, you should calm him down. People are just scared," he said. "If you come and give him some oxygen, put him in a prone position, the situation changes right in front of your eyes."
"Sometimes all you need is to calm down a patient, and then he feels much better," Osmanov said.
Now, after weeks of seemingly endless work, he is struggling to remain stoic.
"I am not at the end of my rope," he said, "but I feel tired."