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Fighting back with goodness: Stories from the Front Lines Part 2

June 01, 2020

We're immensely proud of our courageous team at Baystate Health. They work day in and day out, facing the incredible challenges brought on by COVID-19. This is the second in our series in which five frontline workers share their experiences in their own words. While these stories only scratch the surface of all our team is doing to support western Massachusetts—and each other—we hope this series give you a glimpse into their world and their incredible work.

Read other stories in the series here.

My Frontline Story—Christopher Puffer

“My name is Christopher Puffer and I’m a COVID-19 test site medical interpreter. I work at the Baystate High Street Health Center in Springfield. My job is to help patients with language barriers better understand the process of the testing and let them know they will be okay.

It can get very sad at times especially when you hear about the heartbreaking situations of some of our patients and what they are going through with their families, their children etc. These are scary times and for many people out there with mental illness, stress and anxiety issues can get even worse.

For me, the scariest thing has been the idea that I could bring COVID-19 to my house and my husband. It has been a challenge being super careful, making sure I am all clean after work and before going in to my house and to assure my husband and family that I am 100 percent safe.

The most rewarding thing is helping those who don't speak the language, knowing that our patients will get the treatment they deserve and they will understand it. I am an immigrant from El Salvador and I know the frustration and issues that can happen when you don't speak English. It feels rewarding knowing I’m giving back to the community.

My family and friends tell me they don’t have the guts to do what I do for work. For me, just the idea of being helpful to our patients is more than enough. We are fighting back with goodness and we will win.”

 My Frontline Story- Sunny Shukla

“My name is Dr. Sunny Shukla. I am the Chief of Emergency Medicine at Baystate Noble Hospital and an emergency room physician at Baystate Medical Center and Baystate Franklin Medical Center.

This is a very challenging and rewarding time to be an emergency medicine physician. We realize this is going to be a long-term fight against COVID-19 and so to provide the best care possible, we have a safe and methodical approach to caring for patients. The number of patients and their families being impacted by this virus is very humbling.

I think the scariest thing about COVID-19 is how many different symptoms patients with COVID-19 may have. There is the respiratory component, abdominal symptoms, bleeding issues, fevers and now cutaneous symptoms (rash/gangrene) impacting patients. Patients vary in age and some come in extremely sick and need aggressive resuscitations. Then, there is always the concern of contracting COVID-19 myself and spreading it to my family.

When a patient is dying, I try to treat them like a family member. I speak to them in their own language (with a translator) and try to comfort them. I also like to stay in regular contact with their family members, since this is a difficult time for them as well.

The most rewarding thing is seeing COVID patients improve. It brings tremendous joy to see a patient get extubated (removed from a ventilator) and be able to go home. This is why I went into medicine and it is very satisfying!

There are so many amazing people working together on the frontlines--patient care technicians, nurses, administrative staff, radiology teams, lab staff, spiritual services, respiratory therapy, supply chain and hospital leaders. All of us together, can work to conquer the novel coronavirus. There is no other team I would want to work with during this pandemic. These people are truly family!

Working on the frontlines has made me realize how fortunate I am to be healthy, have a job, and be able to care for the people in our community. I appreciate our teachers even more now, since teaching my children has been a great task. I truly look up to our local businesses as they are thinking outside the box to stay open. Furthermore, our essential workers have all stepped up and we cannot thank them enough. Our Western Massachusetts community provides us the inspiration for excellent care. Thank you to everyone for doing their part!”

My Frontline Story—Erin Saunders

“My name is Erin Saunders. I’m a nurse at Baystate Noble Hospital for Baystate Hospice. The most important thing for me to do is to keep my patients safe and healthy while on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19. I ensure that proper infection control is maintained in the homes and facilities I go into in order to protect myself and my patients!

Although being on the frontlines can be nerve-wracking at times, I feel it is an honor and a privilege to be able to be present for families and patients every day – whether during a pandemic or not. I always try to bring patients and their families some hope and joy, especially through challenging times. The most challenging aspect of being on the frontlines is when family members cannot be present at the end of life for their loved ones – our patients – who are in assisted living facilities and skilled nursing facilities.

The most rewarding aspect of my job right now is helping family members and patients see each other and enjoy each other’s presence with video visits like Facetime. Families and patients alike seem to find some comfort in that during this difficult time.

Although I have seen deaths from the virus, I have also seen patients recover. I became a nurse so that I could help people and continue to learn, and this has been a learning experience for me and an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. There are tragedies associated with the virus and loss, but I also see a lot of positivity coming from it. I see communities coming together stronger; people reaching out and giving a helping hand to one another, and an overall sense of teamwork and community as we are all going through this together!

This time of social distancing has given me a chance in both my personal and professional life to realize how quickly things can change, to live in the moment, and to spend time with family often because you never know what tomorrow will bring. It has also given me the time to reflect on how much I appreciate my colleagues and being a part of this great hospice team!"

Our Frontline Story—Doctors training in pulmonary and critical care

Kamran Sherwani, Nakul Ravikumar, Asad Khan, Quazi Uddin, Babtunde Edun, Amy Surti, Nagham Jafar, Muhammad Ali, Jonathan Chinea, Donna Cota, Jacob Simpson and Jaime Deseda.

"The 12 of us are physicians taking advanced training in Pulmonary and Critical Care at Baystate Health and we are mostly based out of the Medical Intensive Care Units. The early days of the pandemic required us to have all hands on deck in multiple Intensive Care Units (ICUs) as we hunkered down to manage the initial surge. Our education underwent an unparalleled acceleration in critical care medicine during this time.

The scariest thing in the beginning was the unfamiliarity with the disease process while being overwhelmed with new, and sometimes conflicting, medical information daily. We relied on our education and the experience of other doctors and nurses to practice evidence based medicine. At the same time, we found ourselves in the unique position of having to innovate in uncharted territory with this new virus.

While these months have been both emotionally and physically exhausting, we have been able to find strength in each other and the amazing staff of the ICUs. As we geared up to return to some semblance of normalcy in our training, we are armed with all the knowledge learned during this time regarding a disease that presented as an unknown and one that we continue to learn about on a daily basis.

One day in the future, we will be able to tell our own trainees we lived through one of the most challenging and exciting times of modern medicine!"

My Frontline Story—Hillary Wright

"My name is Hillary Wright and I am a nurse. I normally care for patients before, during and after operations at Baystate Noble Hospital. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have worked in various units throughout the hospital including the ICU where we have our COVID-19 positive patients.Working the frontlines during a pandemic is something I never thought any of us would have to do, but we do it for the health and safety of our community.

It can be incredibly unsettling or scary to go into a COVID patient’s room, even with personal protective equipment (PPE) in place. I do everything I can to keep myself safe while still caring for the patients to the best of my ability. Watching a patient with COVID-19 struggle or even die due to this virus is heartbreaking and that's probably the hardest thing about working the frontlines.

There are some bright spots throughout the days though, and these moments come in the form of a patient being well enough to leave the hospital. It's a feeling of triumph that everyone in the hospital can share.

I think most people who don't work in healthcare would be surprised to how emotionally taxing this time can be for those of us working with the COVID positive patients. Working the frontlines hasn't been easy; it has made me view things a bit differently in my everyday life. I am more aware of everything and everyone around me now and I take more precautions than I did before. I love being a nurse and will continue to do what is needed to help our patients."

A Heartfelt Thank You

Please join us in extending a heartfelt thank you to our amazing team.

Thank a healthcare hero