The start of 2020 felt as if the world was holding its breath. What was, early on, an unknown and far away virus, soon took shape as a global pandemic, almost like a scene out of a horror movie. Near and far, grocery store shelves were wiped clean, everyone began to hunker down in their homes planning for the worst, and everyday life was soon brought to a screeching halt.
Although healthcare organizations exist to take care of their community, they, too, were experiencing something completely new. Much like those blockbuster movies, we saw protagonists and superheroes take shape in many different forms. And, we can all agree, that COVID was the villain. From our Carson Tahoe frontline workers to the helpful and hopeful in our community, we collaboratively rose to the challenge. In a year of hardship and uncertainty, many still did what they could to help make a difference, whether it was taking care of patients on the frontline, donating masks, writing inspiring messages of hope, or staying home when possible.
From surges to shutdowns, Carson Tahoe quickly pivoted to respond to the pandemic. And pivoted. And pivoted. It turns out that the best plan is to have one, but be flexible so you can learn and adapt. Carson Tahoe built a robust and tiered surge plan, redirecting resources and proactively making changes to keep the health and well-being of the community as its priority. Through transparent communication and plenty of perseverance – while sometimes putting a strain on staff, pulling from savings, delaying the much-awaited Epic launch, and usurping other service lines – we never stopped trying.
One of the many ways Carson Tahoe transformed its resources to better address the concerns of COVID was creating alternate care sites. Staff worked tirelessly at our symptomatic testing drive-thru, an ED tent, and our lower case urgent cares to test 12,433 people for COVID in 2020. That number alone serves as a stark reminder of the reality we all faced. For medical staff, while responding to an outbreak is something you train for, it is a scenario you hope to never live through. The days were challenging, but a search for normalcy during unprecedented times was vital.
Normal pre-pandemic tasks and hobbies became increasingly important to keep up morale.
“I’m a travel RN here helping for the COVID-19 crisis. I keep my spirits up by walking my Yorkie named Savi, meal prepping (as I’m currently on a Keto diet), and watching loads of reality TV!” said Emergency Room Nurse, Elizabeth Thompson. “I enjoy seeing how others are coping and dealing with this unprecedented time.”
Sometimes, though, our actual reality is better than what we see on TV or on the big screen (remember movie theaters?). Quad County local Linda McCain’s story brought the tears, the joy, and, most importantly, fostered hope when it was seemingly lost. On August 17 at 4:20 p.m. she became the first Carson Tahoe COVID-19 intubated patient to be released from the hospital.
“Those doctors saved my life,” McCain said. “I’m alive because of them. Everyone who worked with me, the respiratory folks –I call them the unsung heroes – the ICU nurses…everyone. You couldn’t get a better team than those I worked with and I wouldn’t have wanted to go to any other hospital.” The whole hospital rejoiced that day, and it fueled us to keep going.
Despite 2020 flipping our daily operations on their head, it’s stories like Linda’s that are a reminder of Carson Tahoe’s call – we are committed to our community, pandemic or not.
As we take a step back from 2020, the impact of COVID cannot be measured. Between mental and physical health struggles, stopping elective surgeries (twice), and pivoting how time was spent throughout the year, it was immense. It has truly changed the world and is leaving a lasting impact, both in our region and at Carson Tahoe.
We remain committed to work together and stay the course, because we are #CarsonTahoeStrong.