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We Are Their Family Right Now

Holding patients’ hands, playing their favorite songs, and setting up video chats with their loved ones are some of the ways 2 Kaiser Permanente Fresno clinicians are going above and beyond for their patients diagnosed with COVID-19. Pictured, Elisa Avik, MD.

It’s difficult to watch patients with COVID-19 suffering alone, with no family nearby to provide comfort. Seeing the loneliness patients in isolation are experiencing weighs heavily on the minds of front-line care providers at Kaiser Permanente Fresno.

“You mentally prepare yourself going in to work,” said Stephanie Edwards, RN, assistant nurse manager in a Telemetry COVID-19 unit. “You know you have to be there to support and help them. The patients are very scared.”

Stephanie Edwards, RN

Edwards says she finds herself holding patients’ hands, praying with them — even crying with them at times.

Health care providers throughout Kaiser Permanente have found themselves battling a new, somewhat mysterious virus that has forced patients to be separated from their families — often isolated for weeks at a time.

It’s not only heartbreaking for the patients and their families, but for their care providers as well.

Making the Unbearable a Little Easier

Elisa Avik, MD, is a pulmonary critical care physician who started using video calls in the Intensive Care Unit to connect patients with their families. She said just seeing their families on the screen — even for a short period of time — brings smiles to everyone’s faces.

“It’s almost like being Santa; it brings a little joy.”

Elisa Avik, MD

She also has played music for a patient, placing a boom box in his room to play his favorite songs. And she recorded the first steps of a patient who had been in the hospital for 3 weeks, sharing the video with his parents who likened it to watching him take his first steps as a toddler.

Dr. Avik has 2 young children; boys ages 4 and 18 months. She says there are days when she only sees them for an hour — if at all. She says it’s heartbreaking that she can’t hug them when she walks in the door, instead telling them don’t touch Mommy until after she showers.

To cope, she journals and drinks stress-relief tea. She plays Christmas music on her way to work to cheer herself up.

“It’s hard because everyone is sacrificing time away from their families, but we do it, and we come to work every day because it’s the right thing to do.”

Distancing at Home; Gratitude at Work

Edwards is also sacrificing time away from her family. To keep her family safe, she is self-isolating at home, staying in a bedroom by herself and only using 1 bathroom. Her husband leaves food outside the door.

“It’s hard and there are days when things really get to you,” she said.

She appreciates the morning huddle with her team of nurses where they go around a circle and say what they are grateful for.

But she said she takes some comfort in the camaraderie she experiences at work. She appreciates the morning huddle with her team of nurses where they go around in a circle and say what they are grateful for. And she says the deep breathing exercises they do to clear their minds before they start their shift are helpful too.

She said she doesn’t feel the public fully understands the risk. She still hears parties in her neighborhood at night and has seen people on social media even questioning whether COVID-19 is real.

“This really could happen to any of us; this virus doesn’t discriminate,” she said. “And it can change very rapidly.”

Although the days are long and challenging, both Edwards and Dr. Avik said they know the value in the work they are doing. And that’s what keeps them going every day.

“We want to be there for our patients,” Edwards said. “We’re their family right now.”



This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. My family and I are forever grateful to Dr. Avik for everything she did for my husband (Dec 2019) She is just a wonderful doctor. Thank you to the whole Kaiser community for all you do.

  2. Thank you for taking care of my dad, for your compassion, and for the video chats.
    I am truly grateful

  3. It is important that we share the love and compassion for our patients and each other.I truly believe that this will pass. The medical staff
    everywhere is victorious. We will continue pray for this world .

  4. Thank you for this courageous and inspirational blog. I have joined teachers in providing parent education and tutorial support to parents and their children as they shelter in place. We completed a writing prompt this week with second graders on gratitudes. One child told me he was thankful to be alive and we are all thankful to our doctors and nurses who continue to care for us each day.

  5. Amazing work here. Really appreciate pure dedication and sincerity. This story brought tears to my eyes. You are all true heroes. Thank you.

  6. Thank you so much for everything you do! You are angels to families all over!! Your sacrifice and love for your patients show with everything you do.

  7. Thank you for pouring out your compassion and optimism for patients and their families. I think of you guys every day. My God bless you and keep you.

  8. Thank you for sharing a good story that it’s not all bad in the hospital, you showed us good things can happen as well, your will to keep going to work keeps us all here at Kaiser strong, thank you!!!

  9. Thank you for your dedication to your profession. You are truly showing the compassion our patients so needed at this time! You are both “AMAZING”!

    Thank You!

  10. I had a family member who was recently hospitalized in Fresno Kaiser, gratefully prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. Dr. Avik was one of the primary ICU doctors to take care of my family member. She along with several of the ICU nurses, Natalie, Stephanie, the 2 Rowena’s, and Mary were vital to the survival of my family member. The entire ICU and hospital team were amazing and we owe a debt of gratitude to them for helping my family member recover. They always had a smile when they saw our Bay Area family visiting. Thank you, Dr. Avik, and the team for all that you do to sacrifice your health for us!! Sending (virtual) hugs!

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