On March 6th, Pierce County confirmed its first case of COVID-19. One month later that number was at 723. Healthcare workers in Tacoma were scrambling to prepare for the worst. As the case numbers spiked, morale plummeted.
Sarah Botts, BSN, CCRN, Assistant Nurse Manager at Pulse Heart Institute, recalled, “Cases of COVID-19 in Washington surged exponentially. Patients’ acuities skyrocketed as their health went downhill much more quickly than expected. Within hours, they went from a fever and cough at home to being intubated and proned in the ICU.”
She went on to explain how work life began bleeding into personal life. “We worried that we would become infected from exposure to our patients. Our biggest nightmare was that we would bring COVID-19 home to our families. As the shelter in place order came through, we began to fear for our economy. We heard rumors of nurses being assaulted while wearing scrubs in public. We felt alone on the front lines, fighting while everyone else was hiding.”
Tacoma Rallies Behind Healthcare Workers
The people of Tacoma had their backs, though, and it didn’t take long for the message to become clear. “For years now, MultiCare Pulse Heart Institute has been caring for Tacoma. Tacoma decided it was time to take care of Pulse,” said Sarah Botts.
The #HOPEGROWSHERE project launched with huge painted flower displays going up in vacant storefronts across the city as well as in homes throughout our neighborhoods. If you’re interested in taking part, the coloring book can be downloaded here.
“The signs and drawings, sidewalk chalk words of encouragement, mask donations, and friendly food deliveries have really brought a smile to all of our faces!” said Dr. Michelle Hunter-Behrend, MD, Allenmore Emergency Department Medical Director. “[It’s] so touching to have people reach out with this positivity, especially with knowing how these economic shutdowns have affected so many people and families.”
Jody Obergfell, RN, Chief Nurse Executive at Allenmore Hospital agreed. “Heartwarming signs and banners on the front entrances have provided such encouragement for all who walk the halls of our hospital. We would like to THANK all the supporters in our community. All the love and support from the community has had a tremendous impact on caregiver morale. The Allenmore frontline caregivers are PROUD to serve such an amazing and generous community.”
Spread Hope, Not the Virus
Daily infection rates in Pierce County hit a peak in early April and it’s been steadily declining since then. But we’re not out of it yet.
Dr. Prakash Gatta, MBBS FACS Esophageal Surgeon, knows this better than anyone. Not only has he been fighting this pandemic since its arrival in Tacoma, he has contracted and recovered from COVID-19.
He put it bluntly, “This virus is not going to give up if we give up social distancing. There is data to show that when places are reopening too soon, there’s a spike in cases. Right now, the vast majority of our country is still uninfected. So as much of an inconvenience as it is, there’s no question this is a sacrifice that we all have to make. Otherwise, we’ll be taking steps backwards and we can’t do that.”
Dr. Hunter-Behrend agreed. ”Social distancing has been doing its job and helping to save lives. COVID-19 is not going anywhere anytime soon, so keep up the good work and continue to protect yourselves and your community by staying home,” he said.
Take Care of Yourself
Dr. Hunter-Behrend explained, “Allenmore, like all of our EDs, is seeing much fewer patients. People have really taken the ‘stay at home’ instructions to heart, which has tremendously helped slow the spread of COVID-19 in this area. However, we also are seeing a lot more patients coming in too late when their condition is such that they become very sick or have irreversible damage as a result of waiting to seek care. It’s a balance that I think we need to work on. Yes, stay home if you have a snotty nose, but please come in for your chest pain. We have plenty of PPE and precautions to keep you safe and protect you in the Emergency Departments. Please take care of yourselves and your health and seek care when you need it.”
Sarah Botts put it well, saying, “When we come together, health care and society can change for the better. After all, a pulse is not just a heartbeat—it is a continuous percussion that resonates out in waves, altering whatever crosses its path. Thank you, Tacoma. Just as you were there for us, we are here for you.”
More information including donation needs, volunteer opportunities, and other ways to help can be found at multicare.org/hopegrowshere.
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