Caring for our patients, colleagues and the larger community is intricately intertwined. We rise and fall together. There was a particular moment when this was reinforced in the summer of 2020, when the pandemic wore on and we were surrounded by fire. The sky was red, and our hospital was filled with floating ash and the whir of large air blowers. We didn’t have anywhere to evacuate. The boundaries between patients and healthcare providers really started to break down.
We were all in this together.
“I remember standing awkwardly with my PAPR shooting air into my ears as I bore witness to the bravery of our staff and patients in the face of death.”
Jacob Goldman, MOTR/L
SVMH Occupational Therapist
There were, and continue to be, many challenges specific to working with COVID patients, as well as other patients, in the middle of a pandemic. Progressing our patients so they are safe to go home, as opposed to sending them to an in-patient rehab facility, became a life-or-death proposition like it had never been before. Our COVID patients are frequently profoundly deconditioned after being intubated for long periods of time. Even those who are doing well can experience fast swings in their strength and abilities like no other patients I have previously seen.
Things are getting better. We now have access to tools to mobilize our intubated patients, new treatment protocols, and we know more about protecting ourselves and our patients. I am particularly grateful to Dr. Mahendra Poudel, Dr. Mario Cole and Dr. Victor Delgado, who went out of their way to reinforce the importance of wearing masks and having our patients wear them. I continue to believe that when we cover our faces we show our hearts, and I am heartbroken at the political resistance that masks have inspired. I am also grateful to physical therapist Rosana Busolon, who researched the CDC website to learn of the protection that PAPRs could offer us.
I remember standing awkwardly with my PAPR shooting air into my ears as I bore witness to the bravery of our staff and patients in the face of death. My role is to see if our patients can maintain their oxygen saturation as they mobilize and perform vital activities. The look in our patients’ eyes, both those realizing that they would never leave their beds again and those who had no idea, continues to haunt me. The steely determination of our staff in the face of this tidal wave of sickness continues to inspire me.