You are using an older version of Internet Explorer that is not supported on this site. Please upgrade for the best experience.

I Cry In My Mask: Stories from the Front Line Part 3

June 18, 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 third in our series in which 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 –Mindy Grant

“I am Mindy Grant, a nurse at the Baystate Breast & Wellness Center. Soon after the pandemic began, I took on a new role with the unforgettable experience of connecting patients in the COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit with their families through Baystate Health’s Family Video Chat.

Part of facilitating video visits is bringing families and patients together at end of life. I am the families’ surrogate, replacing them at the bedside. I hold patients’ hands; I place cool wash cloths on feverish foreheads; I gently tuck hair behind patients’ ears; I cry in my mask when families cry.

Families often need guidance on how to talk to their loved one. I encourage them to talk as they normally would, tell stories, pray and play music. I also prepare them for what they will see. I angle the camera carefully to avoid traumatizing families. I always offer to perform the visit without video: for some families, seeing their loved one like this is too difficult.

This virtual connection helps illustrate the medical team’s updates. Families have the opportunity to see the incredible care being provided. Connecting the visual with the narrative allows families to make necessary decisions about the plan of care. It is hard to imagine what “doing everything” to keep someone alive looks like. These visits are the missing piece many families need to guide their decision making after difficult conversations with the medical team.

Due to the complex care these patients are receiving, it is difficult for nurses to be at the bedside of one patient for hours, unless it is a medical emergency. I have supported families and patients while life support has been withdrawn. I am able to commit to supporting them indefinitely, whether in person or virtually. I am able to promise that I will not leave their side, and will guide them through the end of life process.

This has been the most rewarding experience in my nursing career.”

*Since this was written, we’re happy to say there are currently fewer patients in our COVID-19 ICUs and Mindy has returned to her job at the Baystate Breast & Wellness Center.

Our Frontline Story –The Rapid Response Team

“We are Rapid Response Team nurses, also known as RRT. Bringing critical care outside of the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) is our specialty, and we have always been involved when patients take a turn for the worse and need either mechanical support for breathing (a ventilator) or artificial support for life (CPR and Advance Cardiac Life Support measures). We may help with medication, assessment and development of a plan for that patient moving forward.

As new information emerges through this pandemic, we help nurses stay up to date. We support caregivers as they step out of their comfort zones to perform new techniques such prone positioning, a therapy to improve a patient’s ability to breathe by turning them onto their stomach. Positioning, oxygen delivery, and breathing technique discussions and education are ever changing and we aim to empower the nurses to try new solutions.

One of the most challenging things is feeling the stress of the nurses at the bedside. Some of them have never seen patients this sick. As frontline workers, I think we all have some fear of becoming sick ourselves, though we feel well protected.

These times are certainly unsettling and require a lot of thinking outside the box. It has been amazing to see what team members can accomplish and there is an immense sense of pride accompanying that.

It is always extremely rewarding to see patients we have worked with, sometimes for as long as a month, improve and go home to their families.

We have always been very proud to be nurses, pandemic or not. The main change has been what everyone has been experiencing with physical distancing and extra time cleaning. And while we have always been a respected profession, we do what we love and don’t feel like ‘heroes’.”

My Frontline Story –Brian Valois

“My name is Brian Valois and I’m a patient transport technician at Baystate Medical Center. I work on the COVID-19 frontlines transporting patients from their rooms to locations throughout the hospital for procedures. It’s emotional to see a COVID patient become well enough to head home from their stay at the hospital. With COVID, it could be the other way around and unfortunately, I also have that task of transportation to the morgue as part of my work duties.

Working on the frontlines has changed my daily routines and heightened my awareness of protecting the health and safety of my family.

Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve exercised extreme safety precautions with every patient I come in contact with. In addition to disinfecting my hands all the time, I wear a mask, goggles, a robe and face shield. It’s scary not knowing if someone you came in contact with who is awaiting their test results, has the virus.

People might be surprised to know that patients cannot have any family by their side during this difficult time. In order to protect patients, visitors and healthcare workers from COVID-19, visitors have not been allowed in the hospital during the pandemic. Doctors update the patient’s loved ones by phone and caregivers help patients see loved ones with video calls.

I believe ‘Team work makes the dream work.’ We are all working together to help patients recover and return home.”

My Frontline Story—Taylor Hoffman

“My name is Taylor Hoffman. I am a registered nurse working at Baystate Medical Center during the covid-19 pandemic. The floor I work on was transitioned from a cardiac interventional floor to a COVID-19 positive floor back in March. When this all began it felt like every day there was a new policy or guideline to follow. My coworkers and I felt overwhelmed and stressed with all of the changes. Together we learned how to adjust our typical work habits into those that work around such a harmful virus.

Simple things such as getting a patient a cup of water or a snack were no longer simple because once you were gowned up in a room, you could not go out and get anything. I found myself sticking my head outside of a door calling down the hall for my coworkers to grab me supplies multiple times a day. It was especially hard when patients started to take a turn for the worse and the number of people inside the room was limited.

When a patient is COVID positive, their plan of care can change in the blink of an eye and not everyone’s clinical presentation is the same. Some patients have unfortunately spent over a month in the hospital requiring ventilation, emergent dialysis, enteral nutrition, etc. Knowing how sick these people are makes it even more rewarding to watch them be discharged. I admit that I have shed a few tears during Code Rockies when patients can go home.

Working through this pandemic has made me thankful for many things. One of which is my own wellbeing and health. I am thankful that my family and friends have stayed healthy throughout this. I've watched and listened to many patients and family members mourn the loss of their loved one, be scared of the unknown, and feel lonely and isolated. I've often been a hand to hold while a patient takes their last breaths. I've consoled family members over the phone. I've watched last conversations between a husband and wife take place on an iPad. The list goes on.

Although the number of COVID patients is decreasing at Baystate, I am still on edge while feeling a sense of relief at the same time. COVID has emotionally affected us all in a way that is not easy to move on from like nothing ever happened. I think we are all hopeful and staying positive.
I have always been proud to be a nurse and I have always viewed it as a highly respected profession. I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that I do not feel like a hero. I am doing what I love to do.

I am proud and appreciative of my team and all of our helpers sent along the way. Being a frontline worker during these unknown times is scary, but we have all supported each other by both working together as a team and emotionally bonding over this stressful time. As our floor is beginning to transition back to “normal” we will never forget that we were once “Covid Land” and together we can get through anything.”

My Frontline Story- Terrel Bennett

“My name is Terrel Bennett. I’m a patient service representative at Baystate High Street Health Center Adult Medicine in Springfield. During these COVID times, my job includes setting up appointments for patients who require visits for urgent care or vital pre-operation procedures.

My story about working on the frontlines of COVID-19 starts off stressfully, with my family and friends distancing themselves from me in hopes of avoiding the virus. My family set up an intricate process I go through every day when I come home from work. First, I take one of the napkins my family placed in the mailbox and use that to open the front door. That is followed by Lysol spray for my clothes, hand sanitizer for my hands and a straight route to my room to prepare for a shower. I can’t blame them; when the pandemic began they believed that as soon as this virus came into the community, I would be the first to get it because of my position at the health center.

At my workplace at 140 High St. there are now new rules and protocols in place to limit exposure to COVID-19. Making sure I followed all of the rules at home plus these protocols at work created some additional stress in my day -to -day life but wearing a mask became normal and staying six feet apart was soon something I lived by. This, combined with the team work and motivational conversations from the loving staff at work, whom I consider part of my own family, provided me with the assurance to show my family that not only am I doing my part to stay clear of the virus, so is my workplace.

My anxiety has diminished thanks to my hardworking co-workers who work 24/7 to save lives. They provide the compassionate healthcare we needed during this pandemic. My family has begun to thank me and the other workers at Baystate Health and they see what I do in a different light. In my family, I went from being seen as a vessel for getting the virus to a superhero who is part of a justice league for protecting the people from the virus.

A Heartfelt Thank You

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

Thank a healthcare hero