CARMICHAEL, Calif. — As the Medical Director for Mercy San Juan Medical Center's Emergency Department, Dr. Nicole Braxley is experiencing the coronavirus pandemic unlike anyone who is not a medical worker.
Her Carmichael hospital was in the middle of a busy flu season when the news from China broke about the novel coronavirus.
"Personally, I thought to myself, 'It's a virus, guys. We got this,'" recalled Dr. Braxley, who has more than 10 years of experience working in the medical field.
But her perspective quickly changed when she learned more about the high transmission rate.
While the mortality rate may not be as high as some of the other outbreaks that have happened in recent years, such as Ebola or SARS, the ease of transmission of COVID-19 is alarming, she said.
The good news for hospitals across the country is that emergency room visits are down, Dr. Braxley said. This is likely due to stay at home orders by government officials and warnings for the public not to go to hospitals unless they are very sick, she said.
Many medical providers have the same general anxiety about getting sick from coronavirus as the general public, Dr. Braxley said. The only difference is that many healthcare workers are coming into contact with people who have the virus.
Some healthcare workers have made the decision to live away from their families during this period to keep from the potential of exposing their families. Dr. Braxley lives with her husband and two small children and made the decision to live at home during the outbreak.
While it’s still too early to tell what the future may bring, Dr. Braxley said she does have concerns that the state of California may see a surge of patients in the coming weeks.
"Everyone in the emergency department in general is in high spirits," Dr. Braxley said. "We're feeling good about it, but we're also just kind of anxious to see what the afterlife is like, and when we can kind of go back to our normal mold, daily lives, go home to our families, and be social again."
Medical facilities have been strapped for personal protective equipment (PPE) like face masks, gowns, and shields meant to protect healthcare workers from getting sick.
What was unexpected for her was the tremendous amount of community support. Folks have dropped off food, masks, and sent many thank you cards.
"We've had a really lovely response from the community which is so incredibly appreciated," Dr. Braxley said.
If you are wondering if there is anything healthcare workers need right now, Dr. Braxley says it’s to keep staying home so that hospitals and emergency departments don’t get overwhelmed.
Follow the conversation on Facebook with Giacomo Luca.
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