Wednesday, November 17, 2021

COVID-19 brings out ‘resilience and valor’

Dr. Samantha Peterson
     In the spring of 2020, Franciscan Health Olympia Fields, like so many hospitals, was reeling under the onslaught of that first deadly wave of COVID-19. Patients gasping for air crowded the emergency room. Medical supplies ran low, treatment procedures changed by the hour, it seemed, with no vaccine in sight.
     In the middle of it was a young medical resident, Dr. Samantha Peterson. Her focus was family practice — those generalists treating everyone from newborns to the elderly for everything from colic to arthritis. But just then she happened to be doing her emergency medicine rotation.
     For two months, Peterson did nothing but treat COVID-19 patients.
     “Our numbers kept increasing,” Peterson recalled. “In the ER triage, all COVID patients had these biohazard symbols. In early March, there were a handful. By the end of March the entire ER was full of hazard symbols. I didn’t have a choice.”
     Peterson thought she didn’t have a choice. But more experienced doctors saw it differently, and some shied away from treating COVID-19 patients. The young intern ran in while others drew back.
     “We were a pretty hard hit hot zone hospital,” said Dr. Shanaz Azad, an infectious disease specialist leading the COVID-19 task force at Franciscan. “Sam Peterson was a medical resident. She really stepped up. I’d say 90 percent of the work Sam did, she volunteered to put her life in harm’s way. This is a novel virus. We didn’t know anything about it. She participated in the care of 2,000 COVID patients. She had no business seeing that many. This was all altruism. She was so inspired. So intense.”

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  1. This is a trite question for such an inspiring column, Neil, but was there a discussion of whether she'd leave the mask on for the picture? Not often that one gets to have a big photo of themselves on page 2 of the paper.

    1. She sent in photos both masked and unmasked. I decided the masked spoke more to the subject. Online, I also include the unmasked version. It was an graphic decision; we don't edit to make the page a better keepsake for the subject.

    2. Nor would I expect that you did. I missed the "PROVIDED" citation in the caption and thought you had taken the photo yourself. Yes, the mask certainly is appropriate for the column; thanks for the reply.

  2. With all the gloomy reporting on the pandemic it's nice to read about someone who has used it to enter a challenging course and will no doubt end up contributing much, if unheralded, to society.

    Also nice to learn she's from my home town, not particularly a wellspring of notables, although my mothers uncles were high school classmates of the long time movie actor Fredrich March and the journalist/screenwriter Ben Hecht.



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