A small virus was circulating, so the dining room was closed, և patients were eating in their rooms.
“Nothing unusual, nothing to worry about,” Ruth Gelbach recalled. “Until the end of the day.”
At that time, the staff of the Kirkland Life Care Center began to rush. The nurses and doctors who were scheduled to speak with seven other students at the Gelbach և Lake Washington Institute of Technology (LWIT) were suddenly unavailable. Through a window overlooking the courtyard, on the other side of the building, Gelbach saw nurses gathered around certain patients.
“Everyone was running,” Gelbach recalled. “The staff really tried to be there for the patients. We could say that something is happening. “
For a day, helping the nurse pick up the patients, dress them, feed them, clean them, Gelbach և the other students gathered around 2pm to communicate with one of their teachers. That’s when the administrator pulled the teacher aside.
“You should not return next week,” said the administrator.
It was Friday, 2020. On February 28. The next morning, it was reported that the coronavirus had reached the United States, the Life Care Center, where Gelbach had just spent the day.
In a few days, she would be positive for the virus, as և Theresa Canondon, a LWIT physiotherapy student, was exposed to one of her professors who worked with patients at Life Care.
The school was in a state of crisis, concerned with putting its students and staff at risk of illness or death while not having the information to make decisions about classes.
LWIT President Amy Morrison recalled learning of the outbreak on February 29, 2020, knowing that the students had been at the Life Care Center the day before.
“It was a real sense of sinking, before you could say it from the beginning, understand the whole point of what happened,” Morrison said. “We did not have a quarantine language. We did not know the standards we are in now. We did not know we were dealing.
“But I knew enough to worry too much about the students there, their families, the faculty, the college community.”
The next day, Morrison convened his executive committee to sort out how to assist exposed students և faculty ստանալ in getting answers from Public Health in Seattle և King County.
“It was very clear to me that this was a college emergency, we needed to see it as such,” he said, adding that he knew the answers would come slowly.
Morrison և his team decided to close the university, the deans were instructed to contact each of the students, and the vice president was assigned to contact the faculty. The school also partnered with the Kirkland City ambulance team, which was also keen on first responders.
The school foundation has sent gift cards to create ambulances for identified students knowing that their spouses and partners cannot work.
The school was disinfected and reopened on March 4. But when the faculty gave a positive result, it closed again for the rest of the quarter, and then the fall և current quarter.
“No one left. “Everyone stayed,” Morrison said of the students and lecturers. “It simply came to our notice then. In this time of uncertainty, our goal in all of this is to be a calm, stable, stable place to help our students in this transition. ”
In fact, he said, enrollment in the bachelor’s degree in public health has “grown” because “people are now assessing what public health really means.”
Gelbach, 33, was a nursing assistant for 13 years before joining LWIT, which allowed him to take part in nursing classes while he was still working and raising his son in Puyalup. He now works at Good Samaritan Hospital, a nursing home in the area, and is still registered with LWIT.
“I always knew I loved working with people,” he said. “I liked the relationship with all the patients. Teamwork Company: It will be a good field. “
Gelbach was familiar with viruses.
“But we did not think anyone would come here, so we were not worried at all,” he said. “We’ve seen viruses like this happen, they never came to the United States.”
On the weekend of the epidemic, Gelbach stayed at his sister’s apartment so he would not have to drive back to Puyalup. Her sister called and said she had seen something in the newspaper about the outbreak of the virus at the Life Care Center. Isn’t it there?
“I was shocked, but I took a grain of salt because I was not worried,” Gelbach recalled. “We did not know for sure, I did not hear anything.”
Still, he cleaned his sister’s apartment from top to bottom and left.
The next day he received an e-mail from LWIT informing everyone who was in Life Care of quarantine. The students did not know each other, but a text chain started. Those who had elderly parents and children were concerned.
Gelbach stayed at home with his 4-year-old son. A few days later he had a migraine and started coughing. He called the state Department of Health, which said he needed to go to the Kirkland test, and sent him to work to get his symptoms back.
On March 5, he and his son arrived at Tacoma Multicare Good Samaritan Hospital in masks and were greeted by a nurse in full personal protective equipment.
“I realized I had, I have,” he said. “I had the point of view, we will know.”
Five days later, the doctor who tested him called to say he had coronavirus. The dean of his program at LWIT called for registration. The school sent a gift card for $ 250 to cover groceries and necessities.
Canondon, 39, a physiotherapy doctoral student living in West Seattle, did not work at the Life Care Center, but one of his lecturers was there to evaluate other students.
On those first weekend in March, Canondon was at a wedding when he began receiving text messages from his classmates saying that he was looking for an e-mail about the effects of the coronavirus.
He returned to school on March 4, but began to feel unwell and went home. Two days later, he was tested at the University of Washington Medical Center. At first he was told not to come in, but when he said someone had discovered him at the Life Care Center, they told him to come down immediately.
“It was a buzzword,” Canondon said.
He received a positive result within 24 hours, after which the UW Medicine medical team asked him to monitor him. In 104, when the temperature rose, he packed a bag, convinced that he would have to stay in quarantine. When he arrived, he was told he had to go through the emergency room. Employees dressed entirely in PPE brought him a mask and glasses.
“I was really weird with the sample,” he recalled.
He went home to lie down for two weeks, and weeks later he felt weak. The school sent a gift card և to register.
“At first I was excited,” he said. “How come the Life Care Center didn’t know it was happening, they weren’t blocking students and staff from getting in?”
“But the staff or the school are not to blame,” he said. “They did everything they could to help us.”
He contacted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and was part of a study by Bloodworks Northwest.
LWIT President Morrison is inspired by his students, many of whom will be at the forefront of the epidemic and its aftermath.
“Students who have gone through a lot of stress and anxiety,” he said, “the fact that they are still enrolled is focused on serving others, even knowing what risks health care providers have taken.” That’s just remarkable. “
Instead of intimidating them with another line of work, their experience has forced Gelbach և Kanondon to be even more committed to helping others, despite the risks.
“If there is one thing, it just strengthens my determination to be a nurse,” said Gelbach, who will graduate in 2022.
“I chose this field because I wanted to influence, to help other people, it was really rewarding, it still exists.”
Gelbach used his experience at Good Samaritan Life Care, where he works with COVID patients on the floor.
“I saw 95-year-olds of good age and 40-year-olds with tubes in their mouths.”
And he thinks about the people in Life Care, the sick, but also the people who work there.
“I do not imagine being there with all the newsgroups,” he said. “I was worried about the patients there, but at first it was overwhelming.
“It was a really crazy year,” he continued. “We are just grateful.”