An eastern PEI native working in Newfoundland as a respiratory therapist has been on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, treating patients hard hit from its effects.
Kristy Lanigan, of Cambridge, currently works for the Eastern Regional Health Authority in St John’s. Compared to PEI, which has seen no hospitalizations or deaths from COVID-19, Newfoundland has had both. As of May 11, Newfoundland has a total of 261 cases with four currently in hospital.
“We have quite a few COVID patients in our ICU,” Ms Lanigan said. “As (respiratory therapists), we are the ones putting in the breathing tubes, and we are the ones hooking them up to ventilatory support.”
Ms Lanigan said working in the middle of a major health emergency wasn’t part of her plan, especially since she only graduated from New Brunswick Community College last June, moving to St John’s to begin work shortly thereafter.
“A global pandemic was inevitable at some point in our future,” she said. “However, I never would’ve thought it was going to be so early on in my career. It’s been very sad and stressful, but it’s also been a real learning experience.”
Even though she’s not on the Island presently, Ms Lanigan has been getting some local assistance of sorts.
She recently received a donation of protective face shields from her uncle Peter, who works for MarineNav Ltd. The Panmure Island company is better known as a manufacturer of technology for the marine industry. But since the coronavirus crisis began, MarineNav has been producing the face shields and donating them to health care workers across the country.
“(It) has been really appreciated,” Ms Lanigan said, “as the hospitals have been running low on proper PPE equipment. We wear them on every shift when treating COVID patients or possible COVID patients. (The shields) fully cover the face and are much more durable than the medical grade face shields.”
Ms Lanigan said it’s important that all healthcare workers remain positive during this crisis, and give the best care they possibly can. “Remember that this pandemic will eventually come to an end.”
COVID-19 is challenging for Ms Lanigan and her colleagues, due to both the uniqueness of the disease and the restrictions imposed by the government which prevent people from visiting their loved ones in hospital. She said it’s particularly difficult when those loved ones are not expected to survive.
“It’s been a real learning curve on how exactly we are supposed to treat and manage these patients on our ventilators, because this disease is so new to everyone,” she said. “We are learning new information every single day, which can be stressful. We have seen some success stories but unfortunately, we have seen a few deaths from this disease. It’s been very sad at times because during this time family members are not allowed in the hospital; therefore, some families are forced to say goodbye to their loved ones via iPads.”