Andrea McCaherty says her family started venturing into the world again last week after giving birth to now six-week-old son Henry.
On Tuesday, Andrea became sick with a virus, not COVID-19. Then, Henry became sick a day later.
“He stopped eating, wasn’t really waking up very well and then spiked a really high fever her was like 101.8,” said McCaherty. “With tiny babies that’s a lot. So we went to our pediatrician who immediately sent us to the E.R., who then kept us overnight for observation on the pediatric flight.”
Henry recovered and went home the next day, but McCaherty’s experience at Munson Medical Center struck her deeply. Enough so that she decided to write about it on Facebook.
On Facebook, she wrote, “I’ve heard how overworked the healthcare systems are. I’ve heard Munson is in code red (actually started during Henry’s birth). But last night I saw it, as part of the population needing them.”
Staff were busy and rushing around that night in the emergency room and pediatric floor. Despite the chaos outside their room, McCaherty says the staff took great care of her sick son.
“It’s really humbling to be in place where you hand over your baby and say, ‘help him, I can’t anymore,’ and they did they just took over and they helped us,” says McCaherty. “They were just people helping and while that might be there job, yes, they were doing it out of a sense of humanity like we’re all taking care of this baby and making him okay.”
Outside in the chaos, there were call alarms that never ceased, phones ringing, sneakers constantly shuffling, charts needing to be filled and patients all needing attention.
The E.R. doctor that night stayed an hour past her shift out of concern for Henry, according to McCaherty.
“The nurse cried with me when Henry got his first I.V.,” McCaherty writes on Facebook. “They tried his veins are just so small so they called down the NICU and NICU came down and set those for us.”
McCaherty says they were almost at capacity that night in a hospital of around 400 beds.
On Tuesday, Munson Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Christine Nefcy, said just over 100 people with COVID were in the hospital.
With a large number of people needing care, McCaherty asked the staff she came across how they were handling it.
“I asked as many as I could like when we weren’t chaotic, I just ask, ‘how’s your night going?’” she said. “Each of them kind of like did a double take and then, for just a second, just looked so tired and I think weary I guess because it’s been years of this now. I don’t know how often they get asked that, but they just looked exhausted, kept doing it, like kept doing their jobs as if the first day on the job. But they look tired.”
McCaherty posted that the doctor that released them made the comment, “there’s no letting up. It’s never ending.”
Yet they went back to work, taking care of people in need.
Dr. William Britton of Munson Medical Center works in the Emergency Room.
“It’s tough. I think a lot people in the beginning of the pandemic didn’t really know what they signed up for and it was kind of impressive to see how people responded to the call,” said Britton.
Britton says no one imagined that we’d be in this situation after two years.
“We had a really good response but I would say obviously now, in another surge, that’s really testing people again, and I think it’s been impressive once again to see how people have responded,” Dr. Britton says. “Not just the nurses, but the techs, the EVS workers, the people that are a little less heralded, but jeez, they have the most important jobs in the hospital- have really stepped up again.”
Dr. Britton says there’s often an element of compassion fatigue – the physical, emotional and mental impact of helping others.
“Sometimes it can be fatiguing when you’re having that same level of compassion but I think a lot of people check that at the door when they come in the hospital and they realize they are still taking care of their community members,” he said.
McCaherty says her son’s illness could have become a critical situation, but the staff that night stopped it.
“We were one of hundreds that were there that night,” she said. “They took such good care of us and we were, I would say, maybe even a mild case compared to what else I could hear that they were dealing with.”
McCaherty continued, “The sheer magnitude of what they walk into every single day, knowing that that’s what they’re walking into. I can’t even pretend like I know what kind of stress that is. I want to say thank you. This situation could have gotten a lot worse and they stopped it before it did, and they treated us so well and so caring and comforting to both of us, even though I wasn’t there patients. And just thank you because as a mom, I didn’t have those resources and they did, and they helped us. It was just a nasty virus thanks to virus season. He is good.”
Her son, in her arms, smiled.