LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Arkansas hospital staff reflect on the pandemic as the two-year anniversary of Arkansas’ first positive COVID-19 case approaches.
Natural State reported its first case on March 11, 2020.
“There was so much unknown,” UAMS ICU Clinical Services Manager Elizabeth Sullivan RN said
The UAMS management says there were a lot of questions as the expectation for further cases was on the way.
“We were obviously very concerned,” said UAMS CEO Steppe Mette. “Without knowing how many patients know if we would get the same degree of flooding of the health care system that was seen in other parts of the world.”
UAMS says they did their best to respond as cases continued to tick upward.
“We built all this excess capacity, we built serge beds, we changed our staffing models,” Mette said.
Arkansas saw its first and second rise in the summer of 2021. UAMS leaders say that even though the third rise hit the hospital hard.
“It was pure exhaustion; it was almost a sense of defeat, ”Sullivan said.
The Omicron variant brought hospital numbers close to the three-digit digits at UAMS. Leaders say fatigue began to set it off.
“It’s one of those things where you come in every single day and you do everything you possibly can for your patient, and sometimes it’s not enough,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan says nursing was affected. UAMS experienced staff shortages.
Sullivan says those who stayed joined forces.
“We had walkie-talkies, baby monitors, everything we needed to take care of these patients,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan says staff saw it as a duty to themselves and their patients to endure it and power through.
Today, Sullivan goes to the intensive care unit with six patients battling COVID-19, and a total of 12 in the hospital.
“We’ve seen such a drastic decline, it’s really been amazing,” Sullivan said.
She says she hopes the numbers indicate a light at the end of the tunnel, proud of her colleagues.
“I think everyone took up the challenge and they have really come out victorious,” Sullivan said.