Valley hospital marks one year treating COVID patients

COVID-19 ventilator
Posted at 3:52 PM, Mar 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-04 20:46:32-05

Staff members at a Valley hospital still recall the confusion, fear and uncertainty that came with the first coronavirus patients that wound up at their hospital, now a full year later.

One year ago, on March 4, 2020, ABC15 became aware of at least one COVID-19 patient that had been seen at HonorHealth Scottsdale Osborn Medical Center.

"So much unknown is where I was at personally," said Director of Nursing Jody Johnson about the initial cases. "It was completely not understanding what this entails, what is the disease process, how are we going to handle it."

One-by-one, the number of coronavirus patients started to increase. Johnson still recalls the first case that showed up on her unit.

"When we found out that...we had the very first patient and that they were truly positive a year ago, there was a lot of fear over going into the rooms and providing the patient care," Johnson said.

Johnson also recalled and took pride in, one of the nurses assigned to their initial patient.

"She was assigned the patient, they were coming up from the emergency room, we knew they were going to be a [COVID] positive patient and she's like, 'absolutely, I'll take care of him,'" Johnson said.

The newness of the virus, coupled with increasing patient counts, made the beginning of the pandemic a tough time for frontline workers.

"One of the biggest challenges is that we didn't know what was coming as an organization or as the campus leadership," said Chief Nursing Officer Bennie Clonts. "We started with a few patients and then it did continue to grow from there. Really, what we were trying to do was get the best information that we could."

Clonts noted the staff that has put in long hours and hard work since the initial cases.

"I've always known that our staff are resilient," he said. "But now I really, really know it."

Clonts also touched on improving methods of treatment that evolved over time.

"We are so much further ahead now than we were a year ago when we were starting to work on COVID," he said. "We really know how the disease progresses in our patients now. I wish we had that knowledge base back then."

As is the case with many healthcare workers across the Valley - and the country - Johnson said patients who have had to say goodbye to loved ones over video call is among the toughest parts of the past year.

"What's really sad is when the patients know how it's going to end for them, too," Johnson said. "They're aware, they've seen it, it happened to maybe three of their family members already, because they've lost half of their family and they know, and they say to us, 'this is it, I may not make it.' We're like, 'well we are going to do absolutely everything we can.'"

Johnson told ABC15 that as knowledge of the virus has improved, the fear has subsided and she believes with the vaccine, better days are ahead.

"We understand the virus itself better," she said. "Our care continues to even get better than it was a year ago. I'm optimistic."