'Lenox Hill' Doctor Mirtha Macri on Filming During the COVID-19 Pandemic (Exclusive)
By Stacy Lambe
Lenox Hill, the Netflix docuseries following the professional and personal lives of four doctors working at a New York City–area hospital, is back with an all-new episode filmed during the coronavirus outbreak. The installment captures what neurosurgeons Dr. John Boockvar and Dr. David Langer, and Dr. Mirtha Macri, an emergency room physician, went through as Manhattan became the epicenter of COVID-19.
While previous episodes delved deep into the relationships between the doctors and their patients, Dr. Macri tells ET “this episode is more focused on the doctors, the providers, the staff, the nurses [and] everybody involved” in fighting the outbreak.
In fact, the half-hour episode gives a real-time, inside look at what it was like for the health care workers as their personal and professional lives were upended by this unimaginable global pandemic. It starts on March 13, at the beginning of the shutdown in Manhattan and around much of the country, and continues through the end of May, when people began protesting over the killing of George Floyd.
“Everybody suffered in some way or felt the anxiety in some way,” Dr. Macri says, adding the pandemic “in some way personally affected them -- and not just with their work. Personally we all had something that we either sacrificed or that we worried about throughout the entire time, even up to now.”
For the ER physician in particular, it was being pregnant with her second child. During the first eight episodes of Lenox Hill, audiences see her working through the end of her first pregnancy and giving birth to her first child, Joaquin. Ahead of the pandemic, she became pregnant again, which she says “enhanced that anxiety and fear.”
Dr. Macri adds, “I had no idea if it could possibly affect my pregnancy and that in itself is a huge, huge anxiety driver.”
Her husband and son, meanwhile, went to stay with her parents during the height of the outbreak, allowing her to focus on work -- and keep them all safe. “This is what we live for,” she says of being a doctor. “So luckily, I have parents and family that were able to help us. But I quarantined myself from them because if one person gets exposed everybody does.”
While the pandemic is far from over, New York City has seen a decrease in the number of cases. “Things, luckily, right now are good and, I feel, are better than before. But I think it hit us in a way that we weren’t expecting, and we realized at one point that it was bigger than we thought,” Dr. Macri says now. “It’s probably going to change the way we practice medicine for a really long time.”
Watching the series' first eight episodes even makes her “sentimental” over life before COVID-19. “I remember when I could go into a patient's room and not have to wear full PPE [personal protective equipment],” she says. “I don't know when that time will be again. It certainly won't be for a while.”
While speaking with ET ahead of the premiere, Dr. Boockvar and Dr. Langer also recounted what it was like to work amid the pandemic.
For Dr. Boockvar, the one way to describe it was to compare it to what happens during a natural disaster. “If you had a really good town or city that was destroyed by a hurricane and everyone survived, then you rebuilt the town and made it even better than before,” he said. “That's what's happened in our hospitals.”
“It was terrifying at first, but then gratifying later on,” Dr. Langer said, explaining, “I think the terrifying part was when I didn't know what to do. But once I figured out what we and our team should do and then initiated those changes is when it became gratifying.” He also said he and his department learned a lot about who they were as individuals and as a team. “I feel really lucky to have gone through what we went through, I'm not gonna lie to you,” he added.
Meanwhile, for those wondering about Dr. Amanda Little-Richardson, she moved to California after the season was completed. While not filmed for the episode, she did tell ET that the OB department where she now works has been lucky to have younger, healthier patients who aren’t as high risk for the virus. “We’re taking extra precautions,” she said, while adding how much respect she has for her colleagues who have been the primary caretakers of patients with COVID-19.