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York College Alumna describes her work during the COVID-19 pandemic

April 28, 2020
Graphic for YCP Heroes stories during COVID-19

During this difficult time, we want to highlight stories from our YCP community. Some, like this one, will be first-person accounts.

 

Story by:
Suzanne Boltersdorf '06
Respiratory Therapist at Wellspan

Currently, tension seems to be at a high point. It is the daily anxiety and preparation that seems to be getting to all of us. Currently, we have not yet seen too much of an increase in work within our department, Pulmonary Services. Day-to-day expectations and new ways of treating and caring for these patients change.

Preparing for the surge

We have the knowledge and confidence of our doctors, educators, and leadership aiding Respiratory Therapists, to help us do our job the best we can. They have worked hard to ensure those of us working directly with the patients will have everything we need to care for them and feel safe in protecting ourselves at the same time. While there is worry about supplies, such as personal protective equipment (PPE), WellSpan and our department have taken every step we can at this time to ensure we have appropriate supplies for the expected surge they are projecting. 

When I am working with a few of those particular patients, they are scared and nervous. While we are focused on ourselves and making sure we are protected, we cannot forget about the patient and how they are feeling. Spending a little extra time talking to them can go a long way. We may look a little scary with our helmets, face masks, and full gowns covering our entire body. Giving them time for conversation can go a long way. These people are trusting us with their lives; they deserve more than just a person peeking through a glass door.

Ready for the unexpected

I was educated and trained well for this moment. I feel I am as prepared as I can be and enjoy working with my coworkers through this. We can still joke and talk to each other to ease the anxiety. Part of being a Respiratory Therapist is being ready for the unexpected and suddenly critically ill patient. We are greatly involved with patients coming in with cardiac arrest, trauma, and medical conditions requiring advanced respiratory assistance. 

I worry every shift I work of bringing home this virus. I have a 5-year old daughter, Brynn, and husband, Joel. He and I are both immunocompromised. He has Rheumatoid arthritis and I have Ulcerative Colitis. I come home and get undressed in my garage, throw my clothes in the washer, and wash my hands. Then I shower without touching anything in my house. After all that, I get to hug my little girl and say hello appropriately to my husband after working my 12-hour shift.

The new normal

My husband is working his normal hours at home. We are fortunate to still be working our jobs and the same hours. The worry of money has not been an issue for us, unlike many other families. Now, we also have to play teacher and pretend like we know what we are doing with a 5-year old. Giving daily lessons is an interesting task, lots of eye-rolling and tantrums, from both parent and child. Explaining to her about not being able to see or play with friends was difficult, but she has taken it well. We go for hikes at Rocky Ridge every chance we get and being outside has helped a lot. We have been outside with our neighbors, having friendly chats from our driveways, to check up on each other. 

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