By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Hospitals in the Philadelphia region are seeing an increase in COVID-19 patients. Medical teams have been through a horrific year and are hoping they don’t see another surge. Eyewitness News has the story of one local doctor who became a patient too.

As we hit the one-year mark since Philadelphia had its first surge in COVID cases, many health care workers are reflecting on this historic year that was filled with fear, survival and hope.

This has been a historic year for people who work in hospitals. Facing this contagious and deadly virus has brought challenges and fear along with survival and hope.

It was one year ago that Philadelphia experienced its first surge of COVID-19 cases.

“It was a very scary time,” Dr. Michael Stephen of Jefferson Health said. “There was a lot of fear, but everybody banded together. There was a lot of suffering and a lot of death.”

On the frontlines in the early days of the pandemic.

“We didn’t know who it was going to strike and how it was going to strike,” Stephen said. “We haven’t gone through this ever in modern medicine. There was a lot of stress for the first time in our lives. There was great personal risk and you could feel that in the hospital.”

Stephen, a pulmonologist at Jefferson Hospital, not only treated COVID patients, but he also became one and had a severe case. His wife and children were also infected.

“We got the best care in the world here in Philadelphia,” he said, “and so, I’m very grateful for that.”

He’s recovered and is now a year into treating COVID patients.

“We’re in a much better place,” Stephen said.

Stephen says there were so many unknowns in the beginning, including experiments with drugs and therapies that didn’t work and the patients kept piling up.

He remembers his first COVID patient.

“The sweetest woman in the world,” Stephen said. “She asked me for a cup of tea.”

That patient died two weeks later.

“But I’ll never forget her,” Stephen said. “Her need for tea. She remained positive in the setting of the unknown.”

He’s witnessed a year of remarkable bravery and humanity from patients, families, and the hospital staff.

“I just saw such tremendous spirit,” he said, “and there was a lot of suffering. But there was so much positive too.”

He’d been writing a book called “Breath Taking,” about lung health that now includes issues with COVID.

“The vast majority of patients do recover and do very well,” he said.

Stephen says the impact of the pandemic will be felt for years with many patients and hospital staff members suffering from post-traumatic stress.

His book is mainly about what he calls a crisis of the atmosphere and how air pollution is so harmful to the lungs.

Stephanie Stahl