Treating COVID at Vanderbilt: Two years later

Vanderbilt Hospital staff remember the hard times during the height of COVID
Published: Apr. 12, 2022 at 12:51 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Vanderbilt medical staff told News4 Tuesday about their experiences working with COVID patients.

For the past 18 months, the walk across this sky bridge at Vanderbilt University Medical Center has been a bit of light before the darkness that came on the other side of the doors at the end of the bridge.

“I came on at night, so there was usually a very pretty sunset, and I would pause every day before I went into the unit right here and just kind of look at the sun, take a deep breath and walk in the chaos,” registered nurse Kristin Nguyen said.

Nguyen came onto Vanderbilt’s covid unit with the very first patient.

“A lot of them stick with you,” Nguyen said. “You remember names, you remember faces, you remember family members over the phone, you remember family members on Zoom, and it comes back to you and waves sometimes.”

Heavy memories stick with many frontline workers.

“We remember patients we spent a long time with, who unfortunately didn’t make it,” Dr. Todd Rice said.

Dr. Rice led the Covid ICU operations at Vanderbilt.

“For a while, we even had two patients in a room,” Dr. Rice said. “It was more than even the area would actually hold just to care for all the Covid patients.”

At the height of some covid waves, the patients overflowed outside the unit and onto other hospital floors.

“We were loaded up with covid ICU patients, there were alarms going off constantly, there were ventilators going off constantly,” Nguyen said.

Hard to imagine now, almost two years later, as Vanderbilt’s former covid unit is now a much calmer space.

“You don’t hear the ventilators going off; you don’t hear red alarms going off,” Nguyen said. “It’s easier to breathe now. I think we were holding our breath for a long time.”

Hopefully, we are putting the worst of it behind us and crossing the bridge into a brighter future.

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