|Mount Sinai nurse Kimberly Lipetzky.|
This is the second installment of my three-part series on treating the COVID-19 at Mount Sinai Hospital. The first part is here.
The COVID-19 pandemic is not taking place in a vacuum. Car accidents and gunshots and burns and falls and heart attacks and strokes still happen, and those patients, too, are rushed to Level One trauma centers such as Mount Sinai Hospital, where every patient who rolls in must be treated as if they have COVID-19.
“Your instinct is to run to the patient,” said ER nurse Kimberly Lipetzky, who had just treated a man who had fallen 20 feet off a roof. As medical staff tended to him, they discovered he had been sick for a week, probably with COVID-19, so “then you have this added level.”
What does that added level mean? If you wear PPE — personal protective equipment — to see a COVID-19 patient, you first must strip off the gown and gloves and booties and hairnets and mask before seeing the next patient, or risk infecting someone who may not have the deadly ailment. And if you’re not suited up and a COVID patient suddenly gets into trouble, you have put on all that PPE — and fast.
“Someone is in respiratory distress. You’ve got to move quickly,” said Lipetzky. “Got to goggle and gown and hair cover. It’s a lot.”
Getting it one can take three key minutes, and it’s such a struggle that non-medical staff are jumping in to help.
“You have unit secretaries coming out from behind their desks, putting PPEs on, making sure gowns were tied,” said Michele Mazurek, chief nursing officer for Sinai Health Systems.
Mazurek, who is also leader of Incident Command at Mount Sinai, added: “This is a group effort. We did not need to ask any of these individuals to do what they’re doing.”
Even with all hands on deck, the stress builds up. The hand-washing is endless.
“It’s constant and then just scrubbing your hands,” she said. “Our hands are ragged.”
Every patient is carefully questioned. The symptoms of COVID-19 span the range, from none at all to gasping for air.
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