MURRAY, Utah (ABC4 News) – The first team of doctors and nurses who went to New York City to help with the COVID-19 pandemic will be coming home Thursday.
Intermountain Health Care sent two teams to New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Northwell Health to help deal with the surge in area hospitals.
ABC4 News caught up with Dr. Dixie Harris who spent just over two weeks working nights in the ICU at Southside Hospital in Long Island.
“You came in, it was just a hospital you would never dream of seeing in America, but these people are creative and they really handled this really challenging situation very well,” said Dr. Harris.
The teams of 50 Utah doctors and nurses brought some much-needed manpower to New York-area hospitals and a prescription for something else.
“The other thing I think we brought from Utah was this incredible positive energy because these people had been seeing patients incredibly ill, patients dying right and left, and it really is hard for a care provider because really in this day and age we do lose some patients, but almost all places we work we expect most of our patients to survive. And that is not this disease, this disease when it gets to the hospital when it gets to the ICU the mortality is very high,” said the doctor.
She says it’s hard for the New York staff to get emotionally generated off-shift because a lot of times caregivers are stepping in to fill a void for families.
“One of my colleagues calls this a very lonely disease when you’re in the hospital because you’re in the bed, everybody comes to you, they are all masked and gowned,” she said. “I mean we can hold the hands but it is still this huge distance when you’re taking care of these patients.”
While working in New York the Intermountain team says they learned a lot about leadership.
Every time something would break, or the hospital would run out of something, teams would find a solution, and then pass the information on.
“People were filling vacuums of need every which way that I saw,” said Dr. Harris. “The hospital I’m at has the capacity of 36 ICU beds and they went to 150 ICU beds. That kind of surge is really challenging.”
When the doctor wasn’t in the ICU taking care of patients, she checked in on her Intermountain family scattered through the Northwell Health system.
“Every unit I went to when I talked to them, they would volunteer this information and say, ‘your Intermountain people, your nurses are the best we’ve had that have come work for us,” she said.
The doctor says the most moving thing other than helping New York and its patients is witnessing the New York 7 pm Thank You from citizens and first responders.
Dr. Harris said, “Those are just incredibly brave people and to just see them honor and acknowledge the healthcare workers was just incredibly moving.”
As the team prepares to leave New York Thursday, they bring home its tenacity and strength to help lead Utah through its battle with COVID-19 and leave the Utah charm that with the medical professionals in New York.
“We came as a team and we supported each other, and that I think has also helped us reenergize the people we are working with,” Dr. Harris added.
Once home the deployed teams will go through a series of testing, health screenings, and providing mental health support. If all goes well they’ll return to work next week.