For months, Sister’s of Charity Hospital, St. Joseph Campus was the place dozens of medical professionals spent the most trying times in their careers. While Covid-19 patients are still here getting treatment, many are back home and healthy thanks to the men and women who put their lives on the line.
“What their response to it, was the scariest part for us because one minute they would be fine, and then they would be crashing,” Wendy Byer, an RN with Catholic Health Systems said.
Wendy Byer, is a registered nurse in the Cath Lab at Mercy Hospital of Buffalo. But, for 10 weeks, she found herself in a world she did not know St. Joseph Campus in Cheektowaga.
“It was very trying in the beginning, it reminded me of war medicine, because we did not know what to expect,” Byer said.
As you may recall, to make sure there were enough beds to treat covid patients, St. Joe’s was converted into a Covid-only hospital. Catholic Health shared these photos with us, giving us a glimpse of what it was like inside. Byer says medical professionals from across the nation teamed up. That was challenge one.
“We didn’t know each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” Byer said.
But that was nothing compared to the uphill battle that came next. Byer said Covid quickly proved itself to be unforgiving, relentless, and they at times, felt helpless.
“Facetiming with families because they weren’t allowed to come in, and we are terminally weaning their loved one, that was probably lowest thing for all of us to do,” Byer said.
Byer says there were at one time, four critical care units. To get inside them safely, there were three areas, green, yellow and red.
“Green safe your safe zone,” Byer explained. “So, when I would get to the hospital in the morning about 6:15, that’s where I would on my hospital scrubs.”
The yellow zone, was where hand sanitizer, gloves and a mask was put on.
“Then when you were in the red zone, which is the hot zone, you were putting on the n-95 mask, we had caps on, surgical caps ons, gloves, gowns and then we would head into the area,” Byer.
Then the 12 hour days would begin. Byer says they always had enough PPE and miraculously, she never got sick. A feat the President of Mercy Hospital, where Byer typically works, is thankful for.
“What was odd about it, was you really didn’t know what day of the week it was,” Bratko said. “Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, it really didn’t matter, because every day we were doing the same thing.”
That was saving lives.
“The first week, when we started seeing patients, the census jumped up 30 patients, then the week after, we were up over 50,” Bratko said. “From there, it leveled off and then slowly trickled down.”
Bratko had been on the job 6 months when the pandemic hit.
“It’s been an interesting ride, there are a lot of things I’ve done that I didn’t think I’d have to do,” Bratko said. “We certainly kept the safety of our staff, the patients and the community at the forefront during all of this.”
That continues as a cleaning former Covid unit has been underway for weeks, to return them back to normal use. With that, Byer leaves you with one final message to keep it that way, as Covid cases spike across the nation.
“This disease is not forgiving, or anyone, whether you’re 20 or 100,” Byer said. “Wear a mask and wash your hand, that’s all we are asking you to do, so we don’t get back to where we were back in March.”
Also, a second silver lining to wearing a mask, health officials say it is also preventing the spread of the common cold, and the flu— so there’s hope that we will see less of those viruses.