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A look inside University Medical Center’s COVID-19 unit

Published: Nov. 3, 2020 at 11:01 AM CST
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The halls of UMC look strangely different. Bold red tape around doors that were open are now sealed, to say this is now off limits because of COVID-19.

Another odd but frequent sign is white suits hanging outside rooms to signal a COVID patient is in there.

“We change in and out of them every time,” Keta Lopez with UMC said.

Every time they go in and out of a COVID room there is protocol that requires more manpower. But there are now fewer people there to help.

“Yesterday, we had out 237 health care workers so people are doubling up on shifts,” Dr. Ebtesam Islam, with UMC, said.

Islam added, she never dreamed an intensive care unit in Lubbock would look like this.

“The public thinks this doesn’t happen in Lubbock, Texas,” Islam said. “They think it only happens in big cities like New York.”

The Intensive Care Unit is not just full of patients. The halls are crowded with white suits and equipment that would normally be in the patient’s room.

But to minimize exposure, the staff monitors a COVID patient from the hall. The they provide compassionate care when they enter the room.

Every time they go in, it is a major production.

A nurse in the Intensive Care Unit at University Medical Center prepares to treat a patient...
A nurse in the Intensive Care Unit at University Medical Center prepares to treat a patient with COVID-19.(KCBD)

Likewise, when they come out, it takes another person to spray them completely with sanitizer.

“Almost every one of our ICU doctors has been at work every day for eight months,” Dr. Victor Test, chairman of pulmonology and critical care at the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center, said.

Now, it just takes so many people to do what would be simple before the COVID pandemic.

“One of the things we do is we roll the people over on their tummy,” Test said. “That sounds like not a big deal. It takes like 7 people to do that.”

But perhaps the biggest difference is in ICU, where patients normally stay two-or-three days. COVID patients stay longer, and their illness is unpredictable.

“You just don’t know who is going to recover,” Islam said.

Eighty-five-year-old Don Hunt and his wife came down with COVID at the same time. Their granddaughter says his wife was worse, but Don Hunt died.

“He just took a really rapid decline,” Bri Nieghbors, Hunt’s granddaughter, said.

Doctors at UMC are finding sudden COVID crash can come at any age, Islam said.

“We choose to be ICU doctors to be here for people and to work hard, but it has been a tremendous strain,” Test said.

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