When the number of COVID-19 patients again surged at Floyd Medical Center in the summer of 2021, Rachel DeFoor knew she could put her nursing skills to work by helping on clinical floors. What Rachel didn't know was the unexpected reward and sense of gratitude she'd receive as a result.
Rachel temporarily left her role in Coordinated Care to work as a nurse for a five-week period at a time when patient volumes were high and staffing beds for those patients was a challenge. She was assigned to B20, Floyd's field hospital reserved specifically for COVID patients.
While working there, one of Rachel's patients was a young father of three. Steve was, in Rachel's words, just a normal guy living a normal life until COVID came along.
Steve was in critical condition and anxious as his breathing became more labored. His anxiety further exacerbated his respiration. Recognizing his fear, Rachel would talk with Steve in a soothing voice, reassuring him and encouraging him to “keep calm and take deep breaths."
Each time she said those words, Steve would refocus his efforts on breathing and his oxygen level would slowly return to normal. When she saw Steve, Rachel said, she was reminded of the important men in her life – her husband and her brothers. And, although those moments of focused breathing were effective, the consequences of the COVID-19 infection further compromised Steve's lungs. He needed breathing support from a ventilator and was transferred to the intensive care unit (ICU).
Rachel knew the statistics for ventilated patients and that Steve's prognosis was not good, but she didn't let those concerns show as she escorted him to the ICU. She instead encouraged him, offered support and reassured Steve that the ICU nurses would take good care of him.
Perhaps because he reminded her of her husband and brothers, or maybe because she had learned so much about Steve's life and had connected with his wife, Rachel vowed that she would continue to be a resource for him and his family.
Although she was no longer his nurse, Rachel acted as a liaison between the ICU nurses and Steve's family to keep them updated as often as possible. Week after week, she offered her encouragement, prayers and tears. Crying with Steve's wife many times. Whenever possible, she would visit Steve, and on many of those days Steve's prognosis was grim, but after 83 days in the hospital, he was able to return home to his family.
This past Christmas, nearly five months after he was discharged, Steve made a special visit to Floyd Medical Center. Rachel was there, and Steve greeted her with a hug, thanking her for being a resource for him and his family.
It was, Rachel said, an amazing victory and blessing to see him standing on his own, still recovering, but so much better than he had been the last time she saw him. And in that moment, Rachel realized that her decision to volunteer to work with some of Floyd's sickest patients in what is the worst pandemic of our generation allowed her to be part of one family's incredible story, and she was grateful.
About Atrium Health Floyd
Since 1942, Floyd, now Atrium Health Floyd, has worked to provide affordable, accessible care in northwest Georgia and northeast Alabama. Today, Atrium Health Floyd is a leading medical provider and economic force. As part of the largest, integrated, nonprofit health system in the Southeast, it is also able to tap into some of the nation's leading medical experts and specialists with Atrium Health, allowing it to provide the best care close to home – including advanced innovations in virtual medicine and care. At the hub of these services is Floyd Medical Center, a 304-bed full-service, acute care hospital and regional referral center. Atrium Health Floyd employs more than 3,400 teammates who provide care in over 40 medical specialties at three hospitals: Floyd Medical Center in Rome, Georgia; Floyd Cherokee Medical Center in Centre, Alabama; Floyd Polk Medical Center in Cedartown, Georgia, as well as Floyd Behavioral Health Center, a freestanding 53-bed behavioral health facility, also in Rome; and a primary care and urgent care network with locations throughout the service area of northwest Georgia and northeast Alabama.