Sweet moments among the stress: Coronavirus upends life for Tallahassee health care workers
Capital Regional Medical Center Director of Respiratory Care Antwan Brooks, MBA, RRT, describes how CRMC determines who is a coronavirus patient. Tallahassee Democrat
Laura Burgess sees her 5-year-old son only a couple times a week, but they're sweet moments. The boy understands his mom works at a Tallahassee hospital, managing one of two units set up to treat patients diagnosed with COVID-19.
Caleb stays with his grandmother in the family's Cairo, Georgia, hometown while Burgess works with coronavirus-positive patients across the state line.
At Capital Regional Medical Center, a hospital located just off Capital Circle Northeast, Burgess is the director of nursing for the 44-bed "tele-neuro" care unit. It's on the 8th floor of the hospital and has been converted into an isolated coronavirus-treatment wing for non-intensive care patients.
Doctors, nurses and staff put on protective gear — gowns, face shields, masks, sometimes coveralls known as "bunny suits" — in a three-foot area that serves as a buffer between the ward and the rest of the hospital.
“I’ve never dealt with anything like this," Burgess said recently. The 34-year-old sat in an unoccupied room in the hospital's currently-unused orthopedic wing with Antwan Brooks, director of respiratory care. Like Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, CRMC has postponed elective surgeries during the pandemic.
Brooks, 33, and his family live in town. He and his wife have two young boys at home and he has two teen-aged girls from a prior relationship who live elsewhere. He video chats with his daughters.
But with the boys, ages 3 and 6, Brooks is careful to change in the garage before entering the house, then immediately goes to the shower. The boys know not to rush him for hugs. The family does more activities outside where they can distance themselves.
"I do things that are extremely dangerous," Brooks said. He works in close quarters with sick patients and will intubate them when necessary. He's at high risk for exposure to the virus.
“Right now, it’s Zoom calls with the girls, and high-fives for the boys," he said.
Among a host of professional responsibilities, Burgess and Brooks oversee the hospital units' staff's welfare and distribute information about the virus. The hospital, which is treating the majority of local patients with the virus2020欧洲杯正规平台, had a quick learning curve when the global pandemic reached Leon County, Burgess said.
2020欧洲杯正规平台Each day, the directors are part of a "safety huddle" to discuss new best practices and viral research that comes out via health organizations such as the and the .
Much of their shared job is "discouraging rumors," Burgess said. She pointed to Facebook as a social media site full of misinformation.
Added Brooks: “Health care providers are not immune to rumors. Fear and uncertainty strike everyone the same."
As parents, the directors try to keep that fear out of their homes.
2020欧洲杯正规平台Burgess said her son understands the virus and what it means for her and her husband, also a medical professional.
“We walk in and say, ‘hospital germs,' " she said. “He knows that people are sick and Mommy has to go to work to take care of sick people.”
The directors say CRMC treats patients like family, especially during a pandemic where staff becomes stand-ins for relatives.
Brooks recited the hospital's mantra: "We care like family."
To navigate the current unknowns, Burgess said she leans on the experience of older nurses who worked through the early days of the AIDS crisis.
2020欧洲杯正规平台“They didn’t know what it was, they didn’t know how to treat it, and everybody was scared," she said. "It’s the basis of the same fear we have now."
2020欧洲杯正规平台But the hospital is prepared, the directors agreed. CRMC's parent company has varying predictive models for when Leon County will reach its "peak," when the most number of people will be infected.
Some estimates say now; some say May 1; some say mid-May, Brooks said.
2020欧洲杯正规平台The hospital has stocked necessary resources, including ventilators, to last several months, the directors said. CRMC has scrubs at the hospital that medical staff can use daily, so they don't have to wear them home.
Brooks joked he wears pajamas to work and when he gets home, his wife "does a good job" putting the hose on high to wash him off in the yard.
Amidst the unpredictable, Burgess and Brooks look to family to lead them through the pandemic.
“You think before hugging your children," Brooks said. “That pause, before you get to embrace your child, is the hard part of healthcare."
Contact CD Davidson-Hiers at CDavidsonH@guatemo.com, or follow her on Twitter @DavidsonHiers.
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