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Voices from the front lines

 steven benaderet jodi walters rita amendola

Steven Benaderet, MD; Jodi Walters, RN; and Rita Amendola, APRN

Steven Benaderet, MD
Northeast Medical Group Family Medicine - Westport

“I felt like I had to come to Bridgeport Hospital. My head job is regional medical director, and that’s important work. But I felt I needed to be here, and I’m really glad I came.

The night before I came to Bridgeport Hospital, I felt like I was an intern who drew the short stick for July 4 weekend. I was as nervous as everybody else. I haven’t worked in a hospital setting in 12 years. Half the people I worked with I trained. I was their attending, they were residents, so they’re all 10 years, 15 years younger than me.

Apple tells me that my steps have increased to about 12,000 steps a day, which is impressive. The community has been amazing. Even with all those steps I still gained weight because every day the community supports us by sending us food and well wishes. I walked out of the hospital and chalked on the sidewalks are “You’re a hero,” “Stop and take a breath,” “We love you,” “We support you,” we are very fortunate.

I would also like to just echo that as nervous as I was it took me five minutes of being in this hospital to realize that the staff was so grateful and appreciative of the support. They work cooperatively, they work collaboratively, they work in unison, they speak the same language, and they’re nimble. I was lost trying to get to the emergency room and I had someone who is part of the maintenance team walk me to the emergency room. He said “You look like you’re looking for something.” He stopped what he was doing and walked me to where I needed to go because I hadn’t been there before and I got lost. The number of times someone just realigned me and said “Nope, you need to be going that way, not this way,” was great. So, it doesn’t matter what your job is here, these people are amazing, and by the way, they’ve been here forever, and long after COVID is gone, they will be here, and they will be here to support your patients when they leave your care in the outpatient setting and we’re lucky to have them as the true front line.

I was the pinch hitter for the injured Jeter, that’s it, and I’m grateful to have been here. I had some of those harrowing experiences in holding patients’ hands and making Facetime calls and I’m better for it. And that’s some of those unintended consequences of COVID. We can go over all of the horrible parts of it, but some of the unintended consequences have been amazing. So I really wanted to throw my hat in for everyone here at this hospital. Whatever your job is, you’ve done an amazing thing, and really, you always have and you always will, and we appreciate you. I would encourage anyone to consider volunteering to help out. Hopefully, there is no other surge and there’s no other bounce again, but don’t be afraid. The support here is fantastic. You are not alone.”

Jodi Walters, RN
Northeast Medical Group Cardiac Specialists - Fairfield

“It was quite a profound experience for me. You hear in the news how tough things are for the nurses, but once you go in and you actually work on one of the designated COVID-19 units, you really get a feel for just how amazing these nurses are. I can’t say enough positive things about the nursing staff at Greenwich Hospital. I think they’ve done a tremendous job of handling this situation.

As someone coming in from the outside offering a helping hand, I was consistently greeted with “Thank you for being here.” They were very grateful for the extra help. Anything that I needed, from trying to find supplies, updating my knowledge base, or requesting assistance with turning a patient, there was always somebody willing to stop what they were doing and lend a hand. I just can’t say enough positive things about the entire team of people working in the ICU and Telemetry/Intermediate Care units at Greenwich Hospital, both staff and travel nurses. These nurses worked hard. Caring for these patients was both physically and emotionally demanding. What impressed me the most, was even with the pressure and demands created by this situation, the nurses were unwavering in their dedication to provide the best patient care possible.

I do want to share one quick story. I had a patient who was an elderly woman. I think she was in her late seventies or early eighties. Her hands were crippled with arthritis and when I went into the room to get her vital signs and assist her with feeding she said to me “There’s only one thing I want. I want to place a phone call to my niece.” It had been a week since she had spoken to any of her family members and unfortunately she couldn’t remember her niece’s phone number, only the town she lived in. The staff and I looked up the number and I placed the call for her. When she heard her niece’s voice, the tears flowed down her face. She wept because up until that point she hadn’t been able to do the one thing that was most important to her, speak with her family.

I realized that it is sometimes the small things that we can do, can have a tremendous impact on the patient. That was something that was very moving for me. When I saw her weep, just the fact that I was in the position where I was able to take the time and make that call, showed how much one small act can mean everything to someone. So maybe moving forward in the future, I’m thinking that this is something we can take a look at. I was thinking it would be nice to have iPads, or some other form of technology, that we could put into a disposable plastic covering and we could bring it into the patient’s room so they could FaceTime or Skype with their family members.

The last thing I’d like to add, is that wearing the PPE day in and day out must be very draining for these nurses, especially those who have worked four straight 12-hour shifts. I know it took me time to adjust to wearing an N95 mask and a face shield for long periods of time. It also required additional focus donning and doffing the PPE required to manage these sick patients. For them to do this day in and day out, it’s a different type of nursing. Again, I’m just so impressed by how supportive the nurses and medical assistants were to one another at Greenwich Hospital. Without hesitation, I’d sign up again."

Rita Amendola, APRN
Northeast Medical Group Family Medicine - Guilford

“When it first came out that clinicians were needed in the hospital, I just felt like I had to go. It’s really hard to articulate, but it was just something I felt inside that I just had to do.

But I was so, so nervous. After having worked in primary care for the last five years, this was really out of my comfort zone. But after several pep talks from other people and right to myself, I walked right up to the doors at Bridgeport Hospital, and I was welcomed with so much warmth and gratitude from the Hospitalist group, that I knew I had made the right choice.

When I started working there, I was taking care of mostly COVID positive patients, and there was a wide range of severity of illness. I don’t think I will ever, ever forget just how raw and real it was to hold the hand of a woman in her late 80s towards the very end of her life and feel just how cold it was even beneath my gloves.

But also how truly rewarding it was even while wearing all of my PPE, face shield included, to be able to just pull up a chair and sit next to a man in his 50s in his hospital bed and speak with him and his family member via FaceTime and be able to accurately explain his plan of care.

It’s really hard to put this whole experience into words, but I know it made me a better clinician and I will forever feel just a deep sense of community within our entire system.”