Covenant healthcare workers describe working on the front lines of the pandemic

Local News

LUBBOCK, Texas — In a press conference Thursday, healthcare workers at Covenant Medical center shared their experiences taking care of patients during a pandemic.

“To his five grandchildren, all boys, Shirley Stephens was known as pawpaw. At 85 years old, Shirley didn’t know how to take it easy,” Lona Ashley, a coronavirus nurse at Covenant said about one of her former patients. “Shirley never missed a Sunday morning service or one of his grandson’s football games. He was Dawson County’s first positive COVID patient and first death.”

This is just one of the hundreds of coronavirus patients they’ve seen, and come to know. The group of physicians and nurses have been working tirelessly since the start of the pandemic. The group said they’ve been working long shifts with few breaks, but now eight months later, they’re seeing the worst yet.

“We’re used to taking care of people for days. We take care of these people for weeks, this is why our hospital is full,” Pulmonologist Dr. Shannon Turnbow said.

With our hospitals reaching capacity, our healthcare workers are feeling its effects.

“Just like all the floors, we’re stretched super, super thin with all of our resources,” Brooklyn Fleming, an ER nurse said.

Nurses described having to put on copious amounts of PPE before entering a room, then may spend an entire shift with a patient, trying to meet their needs as best as they can.

“You come home from work and you are just mentally exhausted, emotionally exhausted,” Dr. Turnbow said.

The healthcare workers described becoming attached to their patients, since the patients can spend several weeks in the hospital.

“You get very close to them, and you cry when they pass, and you celebrate when they leave,” Ashley said.

The physicians and nurses said they are doing the best they can while the hospital is filling up, however adding beds to the units will not help as much as people might think. Pulmonologist Dr. Brian Williams said staff is their biggest resource.

“We can create thousands of beds in a hospital but if there’s no one to take care of them, what is the point of the bed?” Dr. Williams said.

Dr. Williams added while the virus may have a 2 to 3 percent mortality rate, medical staff take two factors into consideration: mortality and morbidity.

“You subtract out the thirty year old or the ten to forty year old, that mortality drastically increases for anyone over the age of 50,” Williams said. “If you start looking at morbidity, permanent damage to the body, this only doesn’t affect the lungs.”

Fleming added there is also more to the numbers.

“These aren’t just percentages, these are actual humans that we’re trying to help,” Fleming said.

The staff said they will continue to do their very best to take care of patients, no matter how difficult it may be, but they also said that while it may be tiring to follow CDC guidelines, this is our new normal, and they are exhausted.

“People that continue to live their lives without any care for their neighbor, or anyone else around them is just disrespectful to the medical community,” Dr. Williams said.

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