INSIDE THE ICU: Lessons learned treating COVID patients at Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital

Posted at 3:00 PM, Sep 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-14 06:41:57-04

AMHERST, N.Y. (WKBW) — For months now, we've been hearing about Western New York testing positive for COVID-19 at a higher level than in other places. Still, it's at a relatively low level.

The state as a whole is reporting even fewer positive tests each day.

So what does that actually look like inside the ICU? What lessons have health care providers learned?

The April chaos of COVID-19 can only be described-- five months later-- as a memory.

"We're much back to our regular patient loads," said Lindsey Acevedo, the ICU charge nurse at Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital.

Months later, doors are open, beds are empty and COVID cases are down, a lot.

"We really don't see positive cases coming in anymore. They come into the hospital but they don't necessarily come to the ICU," Acevedo said. "I think that we're learning a lot more. We know a lot more about the virus. It's being treated better."

Acevedo said, "Waiting as long as we can to intubate people is actually proving to be better than intubating them early on."

She said people are healing on their own.

"It's a virus and it's one of those things that you have to let it wait its course," Acevedo said.

COVID has run its course through this unit. In April, during our first exposure to life on the front lines, 15 of 19 patients on this floor were COVID positive.

That was denoted by white tape on the doors.

Another 16 positive cases were being treated on another floor.

Of using personal protective equipment, five months ago, Acevedo said, "...you want to do it as fast as you can so that makes you nervous…"

Fast forward five months, PPE is still worn as nurses walk into a COVID patient's room. It's worn to the same extent it was during the worst of it all, but with a different attitude.

"We're so used to it now. It's been repetitive. It's in our mind. It's not as scary as getting everything on as it was before," Acevedo said.

On this day, there was only one COVID positive patient. She'd been there, on a ventilator, for some time. Hospital-wide, only two patents are COVID positive.

The mood has shifted among the nurses.

"I think everybody is so much more relaxed now," Acevedo said. "Everybody's okay. We've dealt with it. We're not scared. We're cool."

Confidence comes with experience. Through it all, there wasn't a single patient-to-patient exposure, nor was there an ICU nurse who tested positive after treating COVID patients.

So ask Acevedo if she's prepared for the future and she'll give you an honest opinion.

"People are still going to get sick and everyone's going to be afraid they have COVID-19. But the reality is they probably don't. People are still going to get sick. We've done a great job of wearing masks and staying away -- washing our hands-- and if we continue to do that, we don't need to live in fear."

Acevedo says the majority of patients have been older and over 60 years old.

Throughout the Kaleida health system, there are a total of ten COVID positve patients in five different facilities.