“Do we seriously have zero COVID patients?”

ALEXANDRIA, Louisiana (KALB) – In a week of record COVID-19 hospitalizations, the Rapides Regional Medical Center (RRMC) announced in a social media post that it had zero COVID-19 patients for an entire week. It was the first time since March 16, 2020, and before the world really knew everything that would come out of the pandemic.

“All we saw was what was on the news,” said Clint Whitcher, head of the medical intensive care unit at RRMC. “We hadn’t had a patient yet, but I remember our very first patient very well because I was scared.”

“We’ve been extremely full, both hospitals, at full capacity for I don’t even know how long,” said Shelly Wanjura, floor unit manager at RRMC. “More than a year, a long time.”

For medical staff, it has been more than two years of operating in a pandemic without established rules or procedures.

“Like any other virus, we were just struggling on treatment,” Goutham Gudavalli said. “How contagious is it? What precautions should we take for ourselves and for our nurses to care for these patients? »

“In nursing, we follow protocols,” Whitcher said. “That’s what we do. It makes our job a bit easier. In this one, we were blind.

Families of patients had to communicate with them through screens and text messages, and in some cases nurses were the only ones to hold patients’ hands while they were being treated. It also weighed on the medical staff.

“The hard parts for me were watching my staff suffer during the pandemic and getting so attached to the patients,” Wanjura said. “We do everything we can, and we lose them… very hard on them, very discouraging.”

“Here it was just a loss,” Whitcher said. “Just because we would do everything we can, and they still wouldn’t make it.”

As each phase had its own set of challenges, dwindling resources and staff, hospitals continued to operate.

“Without working as an effective team, I don’t think we would be able to get through the whole pandemic,” Gudavalli said.

Even though the numbers are trending down, healthcare workers remain vigilant and encourage others to do the same.

“We’re still holding our breath,” Whitcher said. “We’re still waiting for the next wave to come, trying to stay alert, trying not to let our guard down, trying to stay positive through it all, and just trying to keep people on their toes.”

Meanwhile, hospitals continue to encourage people to take safety measures, like social distancing, in their daily lives.

“I think we need to continue with our normal life, but I think COVID is here to stay, and I think we need to use the same precautions as if it were the height of the season when we had a lot of COVID cases. ,” said Monte Wilson, President and CEO of Christus St. Frances Cabrini Health System. “So be careful. I always encourage getting vaccinated, but ultimately it all comes down to how we do the daily things: wash your hands, stay two meters away and just be careful.”

Cabrini Hospital is a state hospital that is still seeing hospitalizations for COVID-19. Wilson noted that while the numbers remain noticeably low, they’re still seeing an average of three to five new COVID-19 patients a day.

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