Wyoming Medical Center Chief of Staff on COVID — ‘I Don’t Recognize the Hospital’
In a video posted to YouTube as a part of a Casper-Natrona County Public Health virtual news conference, the Wyoming Medical Center Chief of Staff painted an emotional picture of COVID-19's impacts.
About two or three weeks ago, Dr. Andy Dunn said he woke up to a text message alerting him that the hospital was in Condition Orange.
"I've been here 11 years and we've only had that one other time — that was a bus accident on I-25," Dunn said. "Basically that's a condition of all hands-on deck, too many patients, not enough help"
Currently, there are 39 patients in the hospital with COVID, a "stark difference" from the three or four during the summer, Dunn added.
Dunn's first taste of COVID's potentially devastating impact came roughly a week ago when he was making rounds at a local nursing home. He described staff wearing what are essentially "beekeeper suits."
The WMC chief of staff saw a number of patients who were to the point that they were put on comfort care — a status where medical staff work to make a patient's final hours as comfortable as possible.
"As a doctor, you're trained to do the best you can and help as many people as you can," Dunn said. "I tried to comfort the nurses.
"The wear and stress on their faces is something I'll always take with me."
Throughout his career, Dunn said he's never seen medical staff as emotionally drained and physically exhausted. They're working 16-18 hour shifts when it should have been 12 hours, he said.
And, Dunn said, when staff members get sick with COVID it means one less person being around the comfort patients. It creates a domino effect.
"A lot of us are having a hard time processing things," he said.
In one case — it was 2:30 in the morning on a Sunday — an elderly woman was dying as her husband of 50 years couldn't go into the room to say goodbye. If he contracted it too, it could kill him.
"I found myself FaceTiming with his wife, holding the phone. She wasn't awake at the time, but I always believe patients can hear you — you can hear your loved ones, It's a very intimate moment" Dunn said. "He was able to cry with her, tell her that he loved her. That's love. That's a great example of love.
"That's a hard moment."
Another provider in the room held the woman's hand and rubbed her shoulder. She died about 10 minutes after the phone call.
A walk down the hallways of Wyoming Medical Center is something Dunn has never seen before. He doesn't recognize the hospital.
"I don't recognize the hospital right now because of everything that's in the halls to try to accommodate everyone who is inside the rooms with COVID," Dunn said.
He added, "I would just implore you all to help us and support each other."