A COVID-19 birthday story

Tuesday 19 May 2020: Sixty-eight year old Mark (not his real name), did not have a cold and was not feeling sick but one day he suddenly found it difficult to breathe.

“I was very short of breath. If I took six steps I had to stop to catch my breath,” he says. “My wife wasn’t having me waiting. She said I might be having a heart attack and that I had to go to the hospital.”

Mark was not keen on the idea, but after his wife called the Health Department and they said he needed to get to the Emergency Department right away, he complied.

“I was very weak so they admitted me to the intensive care unit and that’s where I was introduced to the CPAP mask,” he recalls. “It is placed over your nose and mouth and pumps oxygen in at a furious rate. I had never experienced anything like that before. It was scary.

It was so hard for me to breathe. Using the CPAP didn’t hurt me at all. I wasn’t in any pain, but I was scared. If it hadn’t been for the nurses consoling me and calming me down, I may have had to go on a ventilator. And I kept telling them I didn’t want to be on a ventilator,” he says.

Mark says he had not wanted to use the CPAP machine either, but when the ICU doctors and nurses explained that his body was not getting sufficient oxygen, he regarded the CPAP as “the lesser of two evils”.

“Apparently the ventilator is a lot worse,” he says.

So he made an honest effort with the CPAP but doubts he would have made it all the way without the nurses.

“They were wonderful; they were there for me encouraging me every breath of the way. The biggest surprise I had when I was admitted, was to find out that some of the nurses in ICU are praying nurses. They actually prayed with me and over me. That really lifted my spirits and gave me the courage to continue with my CPAP mask. I give all the praise to the nurses there!

While his memory is cloudy, Mark says he had to use the mask for about three days.

“I guess after I came off the CPAP mask everything has been recovery. I haven’t experienced any pain or anything like that.”

However, he was weak and his condition serious enough that he remained in the ICU for 4 weeks. Eager to get better, he says the support and comfort afforded to him by the ICU physicians and nurses renewed his faith and fed his soul.

Elaine Campbell, MD ICU physician

BHB ICU physician Elaine Campbell, MD, was part of Mark’s care team.

On Tuesday 5 May he was discharged from ICU to a general ward. It was a great way to celebrate his 69th birthday and hospital staff were happy too.

“My phone blew up that day with calls from family and friends. I was so glad to be out of ICU and on a general ward that I couldn’t think straight. The hospital kitchen baked me a small cake and the nurses sang happy birthday.”

Although he was happy to move to his new room, he is now looking forward to returning home.

“I thank God for his mercy, his grace and his deliverance from this terrible virus,” he says.

“I feel like I am ready to go home. I don’t feel sick. I don’t think I’m displaying any symptoms or anything like that,” he says. “They want to wean me off the oxygen. I don’t have an expected discharge date yet, but I am talking to you freestyle (i.e. without needing to take a break or use supplemental oxygen), so I am ready to go home.

“If I look out the window, I can see the hill where I stay. I can see the neighbourhood. I am almost home.”

19 May 2020 Home Page, News

Please wear a mask to the hospital

Wednesday 29 April 2020: Bermuda Hospitals Board (BHB) is asking members of the public who have a cloth mask, to please wear it if they need to come to the hospital. Most people are doing so and we are grateful. When members of the public wear a cloth mask at the hospital, it helps protect hospital staff.

BHB management and staff are committed to our community and want to make it clear that we will not turn people away who do not have, or have forgotten to wear a mask.

29 April 2020 Home Page, News

KEMH creates more isolation rooms

Monday 13 April 2020: Bermuda Hospitals Board (BHB) today announces the addition of nine more negative pressure rooms at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital (KEMH). Four additional rooms in the Emergency Department, two operating rooms, two rooms on the Post Anesthesia Care Unit and one additional room on the Dialysis Unit have been converted to negative pressure/isolation rooms.

These nine rooms are in addition to the 28 converted on the Ace Barber Unit, announced last week. (The 28 conversions brought the total negative pressure rooms on the unit to 30, i.e. every room on the unit.)

Creating negative pressure within a room results in the air being confined to that room. This greatly reduces the ability of infection to spread.

The Acute Care Wing opened in 2014 with two negative pressure rooms on each of the three wards and 15 in the Emergency Department. Patients who present or develop infectious conditions in the hospital are routinely housed in isolation rooms.

Black & McDonald, facility manager of the Acute Care Wing (ACW), were able to increase the number of negative pressure rooms through the ACW’s automated building management system.

“We are doing everything we can to help BHB prepare for this pandemic,” said the Black & McDonald Facility Manger for the Acute Care Wing, Warren Moulaison. “Our team of engineers, just like everyone at BHB, is committed to doing our best to serve our Bermuda community.”

“Increasing the number of isolation rooms in the Emergency Department will help us better stem the spread of COVID-19 within the hospital,” said BHB Chief of Emergency and Hyperbarics Chikezie Dean Okereke, MD.

“We are pleased with the progress of our pandemic plan,” said BHB CEO and President Venetta Symonds. “I thank the dedication of staff across our organisation, from the Facilities Departments who expand our negative pressure room capabilities, to our frontline clinical staff, dietary and environmental services staff, our partners in security services and our administrative staff – all of us are working to care for and keep our patients  and employees safe.”

13 April 2020 Home Page, News

BHB celebrates occupational health nurses

16 April 2019: Laurie Smith and Muriel Williams are occupational health nurses at Bermuda Hospitals Board (BHB). They work to create a culture of health and safety for all BHB employees. They are among the first staff new employees meet as they conduct the pre-employment health assessments. During these appointments their aim is to convey a welcoming feeling while setting the standard for the quality of care staff will receive from Employee Health Services (EHS).

The pair are responsible for treating all BHB staff for work related illness and injury. Their care covers all aspects of an employee’s health – physical, emotional, financial, social and occupational. Often they also have to treat employees for non-work related health matters providing guidance on resources that can best assist affected staff with improving their health outcomes.

Ms Smith and Ms Williams are also advocates for the health and safety of BHB employees and often liaise with managers, Employee Relations, and external agencies like the Department of Health.

In addition to serving BHB’s 1,700 employees, Ms Smith and Ms Williams also provide occupational health services to external client companies. These companies send their employees to EHS for services such as drug screening.

Not everyone is aware of the unique responsibilities of occupational health nurses. From case management to health counselling to the oversight of legal and regulatory compliance, these nurses help to improve employees’ health and a BHB’s bottom line. Businesses count on occupational health nurses to protect their workers’ health which in turn helps to reduce absenteeism, lower turnover rates, improve employee morale, increase productivity and create a positive brand image.

Occupational health nurses are recognised leaders in workplace health and safety. Their prominent position allows them to:

  • collaborate with employees to develop healthy lifestyle and behaviours,
  • set expectations for employees to self-manage their physical, mental and emotional health
  • serve as health advocates and experts to internal and external groups
  • manage occupational injury/illness leading to reduced time away from work  and cost savings
  • create a culture of health and safety to ensure a supportive environment where everyone can do their best

The American Association of Occupational Health Professionals celebrates Occupational Health Nurse Week 15-19 April.

16 April 2019 Home Page, News