Health / Virginia

A view from the front lines in Virginia’s pandemic battle

by Ian Williams

COVID-19 still haunts the world in an unforgiving fashion. It has taken the lives of many and is projected to do even more damage. As time progresses during this pandemic, treatment in hospitals around the globe have been at an all-time high. Many questions are asked in search of solutions to the disease, but there remains a certain aspect of treatment that is neglected.

Healthcare workers stand on the frontline against this terror, but there may not be as much protection for them compared to the patients. Healthcare workers are attempting to stay healthy, but the cost is depriving some of them of their lives.

Sheuan Perry is a respiratory therapist at Henrico Doctors Hospital in Richmond, Virginia. She has been in her career for 35 years. Like most hospital staff, her line of work has been affected in many ways. This pandemic has forced people in her business to maintain care at work while trying to protect their life at home as much as possible.

“It’s very busy, I am currently in a mode of doing 75% of what I’m used to,” said Perry. “As far as dressing concerns you have to be more than careful, as to how we dress and undress in PPE (personal protection equipment).”

Many caretakers around the world are trying to think of the right solution to halt the unpredictable march of the disease. The staff at Henrico Doctors Hospital are doing as much as they can to make sure that the disease does not leave with them.

“We usually change clothes before we come out now,” said Perry. “We put on personal clothes because we don’t want to wear what we work in. I’d like to say its scarier because you don’t know what you’re bringing home. Most of the girls are undressing in their garages. You have a moment you walk in before you could meet your family, you just drop your clothes in the washing machine because you just don’t want them to touch any of that. You don’t want them to touch you till you showered.”

The fact that healthcare workers are so close to the disease makes it impossible for them to not only worry about themselves, but their families also. The nature of relationships has changed in Perry’s life. Usually the closer you are to someone, the more you naturally want to be around them. However, she understands that during this time love comes with distance.

“I consider myself on quarantine also,” said Perry. “My schedule is twelve hours; I like to do either two or three in a row to have an extra day off so now I quarantine myself for at least two days, just to make sure I’m good before I go to visit my mother.”

She explained how this disease has brought fear to her world the way it spreads without any sign. Yet, once this nightmare lands in an area, it leaves a footprint.

The affected areas have experienced fatal results. In Richmond, Virginia, the Canterbury Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center experienced 39 deaths. A potent message of exactly what the dread novel coronavirus can bring if not handled correctly. Perry has seen firsthand the danger that stands in front of people in her position. She has grown cautious of the public and potential carriers.

“I’ll go outside, but I will not visit anyone,” said Perry. “It touches everyone; it can touch everyone. I’ve treated a 60-year-old and a 34-year-old, so anybody can get it.”

Healthcare workers sacrifice themselves with every decision they make. Perry is a veteran in her field, but the same struggles are visible in others newer in similar careers.

C’esa Taylor is a staff nurse at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth in Portsmouth, Virginia. Taylor started working in healthcare in 2017. Staff at her location have implemented new rules to increase safety.

“They stepped up infection control policies on wearing a mask, really encouraging extra hand hygiene. They also cracked down on waste management, like with materials, the personal protective equipment that we use. It started with the patient could only have one visitor in the hospital at all times, but now there are no visitors allowed. A lot of the boxes that we open it’s kind of like a one for one switch. So, when we finish a box, we have to give that box to get a new box so that we make sure we’re not wasting stuff.”

Certain products have been less accessible. The face mask is important when preventing airborne sicknesses. However, there has been an uncontrollable increase in the demand causing her to be limited on equipment. She cares for the disease with limited equipment. Every time she enters her occupation, she goes to war with restricted protection.

“We are allowed one, unless that one gets dirty, but they want you to use the one face mask,” said Taylor.

Perry and Taylor have a lot of similarities in their methods to maintain sterilization in this environment. Another similarity is using distance to keep their family safe.

“I don’t get to see my family as often,” Taylor said. “My mom lives 30 minutes away, but we’re trying to do the socially distancing thing, which is a big deal because we are close, and I usually see her all the time. I don’t get to see her or my sisters that often.”

Taylor and people like her are making huge sacrifices in their lives. Not only by further putting themselves in a position to extend restriction in their liberties, but also throwing themselves at the disease itself with little to no certain method of guaranteeing safety.

Healthcare work forces are the soldiers fighting in our hospital. People around the world are appreciative of the aid they deliver. Although nobody knows what’s going to happen next, Taylor’s prediction says it all.

“One, a lot of people are going to die. They’re already dying. It’s really unfortunate, but a lot more people are going to die from this,” said Taylor. “Two, they have to revamp our healthcare system. Specifically, how we take care of the employees, not necessarily how we treat our patients because I think we are doing a good job with that, but they have to emphasize employee health as they do patient health. A lot of nurses and a lot of doctors are going to really stand up for themselves. A lot of my colleagues outside of where I work are not being treated very fairly at all. So, I think there’s is going to be a revolution regarding how we treat our health care workers.”