PORTSMOUTH — SOMC nurse Kara Richards was working on the Progressive Care Unit (PCU) when news broke of the COVID-19 pandemic. Little did she know how much her life was going to change all around as Scioto County and surrounding areas began to see COVID cases.
The SOMC Observation Unit quickly became the housing unit for admitted positive patients. Many nurses from around the hospital would float to the floor to assist with extra care as needed. Richards eventually joined this round of nurses who would lend a hand to those who were battling COVID.
Richards recalls that there was a two-week span where she didn’t work any shifts on PCU at all. She had volunteered to take more in the Observation Unit to expose less on her floor.
“I had grown to adore the staff down there, as well as the patients,” Richards said. “After much deliberation, I decided to stay.”
She said her family thought her decision was a bit crazy, but she knew that it’s where she needed to be.
Before COVID, she had no plans of working with patients that were approaching end-of-life care, as she said she gets too attached to her patients. There have been many times, though, throughout the course of the pandemic where patients reach a certain point where they are unable to be transported to the SOMC Inpatient Hospice Center.
“I would be with them (her patients) for the duration of their stay and their family knew me at that point,” she said. “I wasn’t a stranger anymore and so I would stay. I was with them in the beginning, and I would stay until the end, because that’s the worst part of this pandemic, being alone; and my patients would not be alone at the end.”
As her work life took a path she never intended, her life outside of work also became drastically different than it had before COVID.
“My son and I have a routine every night when I get home,” Richards said. “He and my husband will stand in the door and wave as I come up the hill and I’ll flick the lights.”
She would then make sure to shower and sanitize her work clothes before she would go in and see her family.
Now that she has been vaccinated, as well as her grandparents, she feels a bit more hope that normalcy can soon be a reality again.
As for someone who has served on the frontlines of the pandemic and faced COVID directly, her advice to others is that we each have a choice on how we respond to the pandemic, and while there are still active COVID case, we must continue to make this choice.
“You may not be scared for yourself, I wasn’t,” Richards said. “But I love my family, friends and coworkers. I may not get to see them as much now, and when I do things are different. But I’m holding onto hope that this will end, and everyone will still be around to get a hug, share a meal, watch a movie. And I know from first-hand experience that’s not always the case. So, if you don’t take care now, we will do everything we can to help. But it starts with you.”