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Life inside the ER: 'Patients that come here are really sick'

Nurse manager describes what it's like working inside the emergency room during COVID-19. "We're adapting to the PPE life because that’s pretty much what we live."
Credit: Piedmont Medical Center

ROCK HILL, S.C. — There is nothing routine about being a nurse inside the emergency room at Piedmont Medical Center in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

“There’s always something different,” said Missy Breeden. 

Breeden has been a nurse in the emergency room for nearly 24 years.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Breeden said.  “I love what I do. I love emergency medicine. I love helping people. And I love watching our team do what they’re called to do.”

The staff has certainly had to make adjustments since COVID-19. Screening is done as soon as a patient enters the lobby and if they have possible signs of COVID-19, they get a mask.

Breeden says the volume of patients seeking medical attention has decreased over the past few weeks.

“Patients that come here are really sick. So even though the volume is less, it definitely takes a lot more resources to care for them,” Breeden explained. “It takes three times as long to care for them because you’re in and out of gowns and masks and it just takes a little bit longer.”

Some of the patients that go to the emergency room are in respiratory distress and they’re placed on a ventilator.

"I think that there’s a lot of fear out there, but I assure you we are protecting the patients along with our staff members," Breeden said.

It hit the emergency room staff hard when they recently learned they were treating one of their own.

“This individual ending up getting what everybody is so fearful of,” Breeden said.

Pearl Lemieux, a 63-year-old paramedic for Piedmont Medical Center, was hospitalized with COVID-19 for 24 days, on a ventilator for 14 of those.

“This person was super, super sick. And she was part of us,” Breeden said.

Lemieux left Encompass Health rehabilitation on May 7.

“The entire community of Piedmont’s family goes into the front of the hospital and gives her this parade,” Breeden.  "This was the best."

Breeden says she and her team will be at hospital ready to treat whoever needs help. “We’ll get back to normal.  It’s just going to take a little bit of time. If you need us we’re here. If you don’t, stay home.”

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