Parkland Hospital doctors and nurses helping to bridge the gap for COVID-19 families

One of the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic is that the sickest patients cannot see their family in the hospital. But the team at Parkland Hospital in Dallas is working to bridge that gap.

At Parkland, all coronavirus patients are treated in an area called the tactical care unit. Families are not allowed in the hospital for risk of infection.

“Once he tested positive, a couple days later he started having issues with his breathing. Then it just kept getting worse and worse until they decided they had to use the ventilator,” said Sharon Jaramillo, whose father was treated at Parkland.

Jaramillo’s father did not survive COVID-19 but she said the nurses at the hospital made one of their final memories of him special.

“What they did really eased our hearts, for that moment in time when we had needed it the most. They really helped us. They really helped us to know that he wasn't alone,” she said.

Jaramillo said the nurses helped the family celebrate her father’s 47th birthday on Zoom.

“I was hurting that day and seeing everything, seeing the Jappy Birthday Señior Jaramillo sign and balloons and the ribbon just, it will always be in my heart. I will always be thankful. That birthday may not mean anything to them but it means the world to us. That was my dad’s last birthday,” she said.

Dr. Padmaja Reddy is part of the medical team working behind the red doors of Parkland’s COVID-19 unit.

“I don’t think it’s been easy for our family members to not be able to be at the bedside to physically provide comfort, to hold a hand. But I’ve had folks tell me that it meant something to them to be able to logon and see that there were three nurses and a doctor there holding the hand, telling them it’s going to be okay, telling them I’m here with you. To know that there were people there, showing care, right until the last moment,” Dr. Reddy said. “I think everyone who’s taking care of these patients is struggling to sort of, to deal with the helplessness that comes with dealing with an illness that we don’t have a cure for yet.”

There may be no cure and no proven treatment but in some cases, the voice of a loved one can be powerful medicine.

Dr. Reddy shared the story of one intubated patient.

“We just couldn’t get him to wake up. Eventually, we ended up putting his family on Zoom on the monitor in front of him and you hear his daughter yelling from the screen, ‘Wake up, Papi.’ And all of a sudden he opens his eyes,” the doctor said.

Whether it’s a video conference, FaceTime or just a phone call, the team helps families make the most of every moment.

“I hope it’s made it easier whether patients have gotten better or whether they’ve gotten worse. I hope everyone knows that we’ve been there with them and for them and that’s just going to continue until this virus runs its course and is gone,” Reddy said.

“You can never not feel pain but at least you know that he was in good hands before he passed away and he’s in even better hands now,” Jaramillo said.

About 90 patients are currently being treated in Parkland’s COVID-19 unit.