Healthcare workers reflect on the first year and look ahead to year two of fighting COVID-19

Healthcare workers reflect on the first year and look ahead to year two of fighting COVID-19

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Frontline healthcare workers are hailed as some of the heroes as the fight against COVID-19 continues. And as some sense of normalcy is returning, they’re still pushing forward with that fight.

To some degree, their mindset has shifted going into year two.

Things have changed in the last year as it relates to COVID. Dr. Teri Dyess at St. Dominic Hospital says in some ways, it’s for the better.

“We have all the new medicines coming out we’ve learned you want to intubate last,” explained Dyess. “We try everything before intubation. It has come such a long way.”

But even with a year of treating the virus under their belt, it’s taken its toll.

“This is a big deal for burn out for a lot of physicians,” noted Dyess. “A lot of depression, anxiety in the whole entire medical staff. We had a physician suicide here. We lost one of our nurses to COVID, died here.”

Logistics have changed down to giving patients cards with their photo on them so that they know who’s behind all the PPE.

“Many of us came into this with this... we’re going to fight this,” added Dyess. “This is a pandemic. This is what we’ve trained for and we’re gonna beat this. And it became weary when we couldn’t beat it. But I forgot we have to do to celebrate a little wins and the lives saved.”

It’s stories like that of Tansy Rawls that Dyess is focusing on to push through year two. Last week marked one year since Rawls was admitted to St. Dominic’s.

“It’s serious,” said Rawls. “You don’t want it. It could be really bad because if you have any underlying conditions, like I have MS, it could just wipe you out. Because I had one failure, heart failure, I got dialysis, kidney failure, everything is just collapsing.”

She was on the ventilator 21 days and didn’t leave for another 10 after that.

“Still a lot of times I was scared,” said Rawls. “I would just pray ‘Jehovah please don’t leave me, stay with me.’ Sometimes I was really scared.”

She’s now one of the miracle patients. Although she couldn’t walk when she left, she’s back to walking again.

“It’s a real thing and it ain’t nothing to play with,” added Rawls.

But we can’t forget, COVID is leaving a mark on communities big and small. Lawrence County Hospital has 25 beds. And nurses Tonjia Lang won’t sugar coat what this time last year looked like.

“Everybody in the state can attest to this, we were all just winging it really because you just did what you could to take care of the patients and hopefully they didn’t deteriorate,” said RN Lang.

When transfers were hard to come by, they weren’t left with a lot of options.

“We were keeping them in the emergency room just like the larger hospitals dealing with ICU to which we do not have an ICU but we were working an ICU,” said RN Stephanie Langston.

“It’s really something you can’t describe to people,” added Lang. “Unless you’ve been there and you look in the eyes of a 45-year-old who couldn’t breathe and had an oxygen mask on, you can’t explain that to anybody. I’ve lost some really good people. I mean, we’ve lost some healthy people in this community that if it wasn’t for COVID, they’d still be here.”

There are far fewer COVID patients in their hospital now. Because of that, they’ve been able to shift some of their mission to getting vaccine doses in as many arms as possible.

“I don’t even look at the numbers anymore,” said Lang. “I used to look at the numbers every single day to see how many cases. I don’t look at them anymore, not like I did. When it started going down, I just felt like we were doing something right.”

Volunteers are working the site every week alongside nurses from Lawrence County Hospital. It’s an even more personal mission for some like nurse Kristina Ready who became a patient last November.

“There’s a lot of controversy over whether to get it or not,” said Kristina Ready. “For me, it’s a no-brainer, my body doesn’t do well with COVID. I know that. So, for me I had to get it.”

They’ve noticed the older generations do seem more willing to roll up their sleeves. But with each shot, they know it’s one person less likely to end up in their care down the road at the hospital.

“They come through crying,” explained Langston of the elderly community members. “You get them on the phone and they’re crying. They are so, so thankful for the vaccine. So, yes I do see a light at the end of the tunnel.”

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