The Voices of Interlude: Amanda Castle
By Alesha Damerville
Amanda Castle is a critical care registered nurse at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center.
What does a typical day of yours look like during coronavirus? In what ways has the pandemic changed it?
Here in Steamboat, we luckily haven't had the volume or high acuity of COVID-19 patients that the Front Range has. Our routine on the Med-Surg/ICU floor hasn't changed much. We all wear masks for the entirety of our shifts and we have one hallway shut down as a negative pressure hall in case we get an influx of patients. We get new information daily from administration with the latest COVID-19 updates. Our managers and clinical educators have organized drills and special training for us to ensure we are as ready as we can be for treating these patients.
You spent time helping Greeley hospitals with the COVID outbreak – what differences and similarities have you noticed between Steamboat and Greeley in terms of the outbreak?
Greeley and Weld County have been hit especially hard for being somewhat rural. When I was working at UCHealth Greeley Hospital, I was in the ICU and every single patient with COVID-19 was on a ventilator with respiratory complications including Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome. The unit was a six-bed ICU and most shifts I was there, they had seven to nine patients with some doubled up ICU rooms. It was a completely different experience compared to working at YVMC during the pandemic. Thankfully, I felt very safe and supported at the Greeley hospital. The ICU ran like a well-oiled machine with amazing teamwork, great communication and helpful staff that were ready to jump in for any situation.
What do you find most challenging during this time? What are some of the ways you cope with the unique challenges you’re facing right now?
Hands down, the most challenging part of this pandemic is that we aren't allowing family or friends to visit patients in the hospital, so hospital staff is essentially acting as family members and support for patients. It breaks my heart that family members can't visit unless it is truly a life or death situation. Patients are by themselves, so our job is requiring even more TLC, which can be emotionally draining for health care workers.
Another challenge is all the uncertainty surrounding the situation. How long is this all going to last? Is Steamboat going to get the surge of patients that other cities have experienced? What are the long-term effects of the pandemic?
I have been making sure to take time for myself, allowing myself to process all of the stressful situations we are going through. Some of my best stress relievers have been playing outside with my dog, crafting – I got my mom's old sewing machine out and have been sewing surgical hats for friends at work – and playing music with my husband, Jake. My mother, who is also a nurse, has been my main person to vent to, and cry to, and laugh with because she totally gets it. She has seen a lot in her four decades of critical care nursing and always has good advice for me. I've enjoyed video chats with girlfriends who are also nurses, and we love sending funny things back and forth. Humor is my best coping mechanism.
What’s the most gratifying part of your job when dealing with something like this?
While I was in Greeley, I took care of a critically ill COVID-19 patient who was younger than me – I’m 33 years old. I saw him progress in the two weeks I was there and heard that he was eventually extubated, meaning he was taken off the ventilator, and transferred to the floor. I spent several nights caring for him, spending hours holding his hand and talking to him and comforting him while he was uncomfortable on a ventilator. I was so happy to hear that he did so well.
I love hearing about special send-offs some hospitals are doing when COVID-19 patients get discharged, like playing a fun, celebratory song over the hospital intercom or lining up in the halls to clap as the patient is escorted out the door. I think that is just as therapeutic for the staff as it is for the patient.
If you could get a message about this situation out to the public, what would it be?
Be patient. Take this time to discover some newfound hobbies at home. Pick up that guitar you haven't played in a long time. Teach your children how to bake a pie. Teach your elderly family members how to video chat. Have a screen-free evening and play card games or do a puzzle.
What do you do with your free time (if you have any) during this time of social distancing?
My husband and I have a few small whitewater crafts that we have taken out to paddle the Yampa – responsibly. I've dusted off my piano and have been playing that. I've also been sewing, doing yoga at home and playing outside with our dog, Hazel.
Are there any lessons or silver linings that you think should specifically be taken with us after this situation?
I am realizing how grateful I am for the normal, daily things I did before the pandemic. I hope after all this settles, we all cherish our time together, developing meaningful relationships with friends and family, become more aware of personal health habits (handwashing especially) and learn not to take things for granted.
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