BOONE — Since Boone-based Samaritan’s Purse deployed field hospitals to Milan, Italy, on March 17, and to New York City on March 28, 12 High Country residents remained on the ground at both sites as of April 28, according to Kaitlyn Lahm, assistant director of marketing and media relations.
To protect its staff members, the Christian international relief organization has implemented a “strict protocol” for both personal protective equipment requirements and self-monitoring, which includes staff members “taking their temperatures and logging that twice daily and submitting those logs to our Incident Management Team,” said Lahm.
One Samaritan’s Purse staff member had contracted COVID-19 in Italy as of April 28. Lahm said she could not confirm if the staff member is from the High Country.
“(During the week of April 19-25), one of our staff members working in Cremona, Italy, tested positive for the virus. We are providing care for them as they are quarantined in Italy, and they are recovering well,” Lahm said.
There were no reports of staff members being diagnosed with COVID-19 from the emergency field hospital site in New York City as of April 28.
Upon returning to the High Country from either out-of-state travel or international travel, Samaritan’s Purse is requiring employees to self-isolate for two weeks, and to combat exhaustion, “medical personnel are working on 2-4 week rotations, and in Italy, they are on 30-day rotations,” said Lahm, noting that this means some staff members have already returned to their homes.
“Samaritan’s Purse health care providers have treated more than 450 COVID-19 patients at the emergency field hospitals in Italy and New York City,” Lahm said. “When we first arrived in Italy, the local hospital in Cremona had been forced to suspend all medical care except for maternity and pediatrics due to the overwhelming number of people suffering from the COVID-19 virus. Slowly, their hospital has been able to start treating other needs while Samaritan’s Purse continues to bring added capacity through the 68-bed field hospital.”
In Italy, Samaritan’s Purse has aided in discharging 192 patients and 95 patients in New York, where the organization is “working hand in hand with the Mount Sinai Health System.”
Lahm said that each patient’s discharge is celebrated by staff members cheering, clapping and ringing cowbells.
“Celebrating a patient’s full recovery is one of the most rewarding things that our team is a part of,” Lahm said, noting that “while numbers are declining, many of the patients are still critical and require ventilator support.”
Additionally, Lahm noted the atmosphere in the emergency field hospitals that have been deployed due to the pandemic.
“Inside of the tents, there is a wide array of emotion. There is sadness as the team sees so many suffering people, especially those who are on ventilators in intensive care. There is stress when one of the patients takes a downward turn or crashes. And of course, the team is devastated when a patient’s life can’t be saved,” she said. “There is also incredible joy when a patient is discharged and leaves the tent ringing a cowbell in celebration. The days are emotionally and physically exhausting, but everyone there feels like they are right where they belong.”
More information from Samaritan’s Purse and its ongoing efforts can be found online at www.samaritanspurse.org.