On a morning in late May, a COVID-19 patient in our Intensive Care Unit was taken off the ventilator that had been helping him breathe for the past 17 days. The event was met with celebration and a few laughs as the patient uttered some of his first words in weeks: “I’m starving.”
In our Q & A section, a respiratory therapist describes her response to a similar event: “The smile on the patient’s face was all we needed. It was one of those days in my RT career I’ll always remember.”
There have been many powerful and moving moments at Mary Greeley Medical Center during this unimaginable health crisis. 2020 had started on an exciting note for Mary Greeley as we were deep into the planning for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award conference slated for March in Washington D.C.
We would be there proudly telling the Mary Greeley story and receiving the Baldrige Quality Award, the nation’s top presidential-level honor for quality improvement and innovation. Mary Greeley is the first organization in Iowa to achieve it.
Then COVID-19 hit and the conference, not surprisingly, was cancelled. We had been discussing the growing concerns about the virus since early January. Those early talks involved the idea of the virus being a good motivation to do some clinical drills at the hospital. Things quickly evolved from drills to focused preparation for COVID-19’s inevitable arrival on our doorstep.
Instead of attending the Baldrige conference, we were here doing what we do best: ensuring that even in times wracked with uncertainty we are providing safe, outstanding care for our patients and our communities. In our COVID-19 response, we have been diligently creating effective plans and processes, following them consistently, and adapting them as needed. In other words, we have been doing what captured the attention of Baldrige evaluators.
The issues surrounding COVID-19 have been vast and ever-evolving:
- Where should we treat COVID-19 patients? What if we have a surge that exceeds our capabilities?
- How do we ensure the safety of our staff, providers, patients and visitors?
- How should we screen staff, patients and visitors? What should be asked? How should we ask it?
- Do we have enough supplies, particularly personal protective equipment (PPE)? Where do we find more?
- How do we keep our staff working, even when the virus causes significant decreases in the number of patients we’re seeing?
- How do we keep our staff informed? How do we ease anxiety in the communities we serve?
- How can we make greater use of telehealth?
- How do we suspend elective surgeries and other procedures, and then, weeks later, bring them back on line safely?
COVID-19 has dominated our attention every day for months. At the same time, we’ve been busy helping moms welcome new lives into the world, and providing care for patients with other serious illnesses, such as the young cancer patient.
COVID-19 at Mary Greeley
Mary Greeley has taken a number of steps in response to growing concerns about novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
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Responding to COVID-19 has involved a massive team effort. Everyone from nurses to physicians, environmental services staff to respiratory therapists, infectious disease specialists to valet attendants have been involved. I have never been more proud of Mary Greeley staff and our partners, particularly McFarland Clinic.
Everyone at Mary Greeley will have a COVID-19 moment that stays with them forever. From the joy of seeing a COVID-19 patient go home to the heartbreak of telling a new grandmother that because of our visitor policy they can’t visit their newest family member, we’ve experienced a roller coaster of emotions during this challenging time.
What’s kept us going is knowing that we are helping people at a time they need it the most. What’s also kept us going is the inspiring outpouring of support provided by the communities we serve.
There have been food donations from local restaurants and others for our hardworking healthcare staff. More than 300 people have sewn an estimated 6,000 masks for staff and visitors. Local manufacturers have redirected their capacity, coming up with creative ways to fabricate new PPE.
We received more than $200,000 in philanthropic contributions through the Mary Greeley Foundation to support our COVID-19 response. These much-appreciated gifts helped fund telehealth equipment, blood pressure cuffs for cardiac rehab patients who were seen remotely, PPE purchases, and so much more.
Let me take this opportunity to say thank you for thinking of us. It can’t be said enough that we truly are all in this together.
Working Through COVID-19
Hear Mary Greeley staff talk about what it’s like to work at a hospital during a pandemic.
COVID-19 Photo Album
Signs of the Times
Tables are pushed aside and chairs stacked in the dining area of Mary Greeley’s cafeteria. The dining area was closed due to COVID-19 regulations issued by the state. The pandemic also prompted all sorts of signage. Some came in the form of positive messages for healthcare staff written in sidewalk chalk, while others made people aware of the latest visitor restrictions and screening processes.
From A Distance
During the COVID-19 pandemic, some sights have been as heartwarming as they are heartbreaking. Case in point: Steve and Janet Drake visiting Steve’s brother, David, a patient at Mary Greeley. Because of visitor restrictions put in place to ensure everyone’s safety, the visit took place via cell phone, with Steve and Janet in the parking lot looking up at David as he stood at the window of his 5th floor hospital room with his wife, Diane. “The love and support they showed by driving in from out of town was heartwarming. Spending day after day cooped up in here is very difficult,” said David. The experience “was not as good as face to face but since we obviously could not do that it was good to connect by cellphone and be able to see David, wave at him and hear his voice. It is always good to have a visual and hear the voice of people you love and be able to connect with them as they go through hard times,” Janet said.
Personal protective equipment, or PPE, has been a valued commodity during COVID-19. For the safety of patients and staff, Mary Greeley started building up supplies early in the crisis. There is a safe way to put on and take off PPE and Mary Greeley put together a team of PPE experts to help staff. In the photo at the lower left, Deb Beelner, a PPE pro and Wound Clinic nurse, helps Maggie Zimmerman, a nurse who worked with COVID-19 patients, with her PPE. Several organizations, including Iowa State University CIRAS and John Deere, fabricated face shields for the hospital. In the photo at the upper left, nurses Shannon King and Monica Bohnert put on face shields created by John Deere. Preserving PPE was also important. One way Mary Greeley did this, was to minimize the number of people going in and out of patient rooms. In the image above, a masked team of nurses and therapists stands outside an ICU room, providing support for the nurses inside the room assisting a patient.
Donations & Supplies
Where do we start? The outpouring of support for healthcare workers was amazing. Many local restaurants contributed food, including Hungry Boys whose taco truck cuisine is about to be enjoyed by supply distribution tech Meesha Oxley. That National Guard truck at our loading dock brought a pallet of supplies that was distributed by Story County Public Health. There have been donuts, pizza, barbeque, tacos, smoothies and so many Girl Scout cookies. Mask makers made many masks. More than 300 people created an estimated 6,000 masks for staff and visitors. Much needed supplies also were provided, including this load from Ames Community Schools. (See below to learn more)
In May, Mary Greeley began a drive-thru COVID-19 testing service for people scheduled for procedures at the hospital. This was put in place when elective surgeries and procedures started up after being postponed for several weeks. The tests were done in advance of the procedures so results would be back in time. Here, Lorene Grandgeorge, gets a quick swab from nurse Karen Brenner.
We're All In This Together
There were inspiring, light-hearted moments during COVID-19. One came when a rainbow appeared near the hospital, providing nature’s exclamation point to the new sign on windows of our Birthways unit: We Will Push Through This. Clorinda Gaston, a valet attendant who switched to working a screening table when valet service was suspended, made a mask for big enough for our Cy statue.
Tech & Telehealth
Those eyeball-looking things? Those are baby monitors, which were used to keep watch on COVID-19 patients. Celeste Small, a physical therapist with Rehab & Wellness, conducts a remote therapy session. Telehealth was an important tool to provide patient care when people couldn’t come to the medical center. Support for the baby monitors and telehealth expenses were provided by contributions made to the Mary Greeley Foundation specifically to support our COVID-19 response.
A Big Thank You!
During the COVID-19 crisis, many area organizations and businesses, and a few individuals, stepped up to support Mary Greeley Medical Center staff by donating food, providing much needed PPE, and offering discounts. Additionally, hundreds of people created more than 6,000 facemasks, while others made financial contributions to the hospital. These acts of generosity and thoughtfulness touched everyone at Mary Greeley.
- Ames Community School District
- Ames Girl Scouts
- Big Al’s BBQ
- Jessica Borman and Family
- Burger King
- Cabin Coffee
- Café Diem
- Champion Seed of Iowa
- Cookies, etc.
- CVS Pharmacy
- Cyclone Sports Properties
- Dairy Queen
- Danfoss Power Solutions
- Domino’s Pizza
- Dunkin’ Donuts
- Ellen and Jack Duysen
- Great Plains Sauce & Dough
- Gilbert Community School District
- Huess Printing
- Hungry Boys Food Truck
- Iowa Corn Growers
- Iowa State Center
- ISU Athletics
- ISU CIRAS
- ISU College of Veterinary Medicine
- ISU Dining
- Jeff’s Pizza
- John Deere and Company
- Krispy Kreme
- Panera Bread
- Papa John’s
- Pizza Pit
- Pizza Ranch
- Purdue Global
- Sam’s Club
- Smoothie King
- Dr. David and Jessica Sosnouski
- State Farm (Mark Doyle)
- Stomping Grounds
- Studer Group
- Sturm Cosmetic Surgery
- Texas Roadhouse
- Tropical Smoothies
- U.S. Bank
- Vibe Nutrition
- West Street Deli
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