For her labors during the COVID-19 outbreak, frontline worker Lisa Barlow attended a White House National Nurses Week function on Wednesday, May 6 (which was National Nurses Day), in Washington, D.C.
Barlow is a Charleston-based care transitions nurse for Genesis Healthcare. She volunteered to work for two weeks in April at a sister nursing facility in Ridgewood, New Jersey, as the pandemic spread throughout the United States.
Barlow left her family in Campbells Creek on April 15 to assist her Garden State health care colleagues in supporting nursing home residents during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We had a conference call one day where they sent out a message that they were critically staffed in New Jersey,” Barlow said. She and other Genesis employees from throughout the state responded to the call for help.
“When I got there, their building has between 65 and 70 patients normally, divided into two wings, and all but six patients were positive for COVID-19,” she said. “Multiple staff members there were also affected by it and were not working, so that put them in a staffing crisis.
“They were at such a point you had to go and do what you had to do to help people,” said Barlow. That included feeding, cleaning and providing medication for patients, among a range of other duties as they arose. On the second night there, she said, she had to assist in treating a patient who had gone into cardiac arrest.
“We had to step in and be their families, since their families were not allowed to come in,” she said. “We’d help them with FaceTime and Zoom calls, to let residents have some kind of contact with them.
“We basically handled every aspect of their care.
“Wearing head-to-toe PPE is miserable. It’s hot. It makes your shift twice as hard to do, when you’re trying to do everything in all that gear,” Barlow added.
While she was working in New Jersey, her Genesis Healthcare supervisors, Teresa Scott and Pamela George, nominated her for an Impact Award, which included a visit to the White House.
“They asked me to write up a brief statement about what I experienced there, submitted it to the White House and mine was accepted,” Barlow said.
“I drove up Tuesday evening. I had absolutely no idea who was going to be there. I got there on Wednesday morning. They did our COVID test and put all of us together in a room.”
While waiting through the morning, she met and talked with other nurses from around the country — including one from nearby Scott Depot — and then the dignitaries began to arrive, she said.
“They did some interviews with us while we waiting for the president to be ready. The vice president came in and spoke with us off camera. Dr. Deborah L. Birx spoke with us, probably for a good 45 minutes, trying to find out our siutation with PPE, how people are responding to treatment and what we were seeing.”
At about 1:15 p.m., Donald Trump entered, she said. “We really didn’t get one-on-one time with him while we were in the meeting,” Barlow said. “It was very interactive, though, and I was surprised that he was as personable as he was. I was a little starstruck, being in the West Wing and the Oval Office. It was definitely a different experience being in the Oval Office with him.
“It was a good experience. I was very proud to have gone,” she said.
Barlow returned to Campbells Creek on May 7 to resume her regular, if temporarily altered, work routine with Genesis Healthcare. Originally from Oceana, Barlow has been a nurse for 28 years, the last 18 months with Genesis. She is adhering to the stay-at-home guidelines until hospitals return to more relaxed operational conditions and is experiencing a far slower pace than she encountered in New Jersey, she said.
“Normally, I work in the hospitals,” she explained, “evaluating patients for placement in our centers. With the hospitals shut down now, I’m basically doing my job from my kitchen table right now, until everything gets back up.”