OAHHS Hospital Voice Fall/Winter 2021-22

22 » A magazine for and about Oregon Community Hospitals. from Castro’s room, a bank of monitors in the nurses’ station constantly tracked his heart rate and oxygen saturation, sending Robertson-Otis into his room several times an hour to increase his oxygen. Two to three times, he had to go back to the CCU, once after only 12 hours on 2R. “We’ve had so many respiratory patients, but we’ve never seen the massive fluctuations like we did with Alex,” she said. “I’ve never been tried to this degree. I don’t think most of our staff have been taxed in this way before. Their skills are impressive, they save people’s lives, but that’s not the part that’s hard. It’s the emotional part. I felt for a while that I was carrying the emotional weight of the global pandemic, then I realized we can only care for the people here. And that was freeing for me.” Meanwhile, Castro felt imprisoned by fear when the pandemic compelled the hospital to again bar visitors. “He missed his family so much. It was terrifying for him because he was utterly losing hope from not seeing them at all,” Robertson- Otis said. “He was on Facetime with them, but if he couldn’t have anyone visit, we didn’t know if he was going to make it. So, we asked for special permission to have just his wife come.” Castro started to improve. By August, about a month before he was discharged from PPMC, he walked the hall twice a day on 25 liters of oxygen, a significant increase from what he could handle when he first arrived on 2R. “Then he had a respiratory event that made him a little bit worse,” said Robertson-Otis. “We were so afraid, after all this time, that he wasn’t going to make it. I told him, ‘You’ve given so much, and we realize you may have little motivation for yourself, but we can’t handle you not making it home.’” Castro was finally able to, after more than six months in respiratory/cardiology and nearly four months more in the CCU. In the PPMC video, when asked about this next, huge step in his healing, he says, “I feel happy to see all my family. A little scary, but I’m happy to go home,” he says. He had missed his wife’s and four children’s birthdays, Christmas, New Year’s, his youngest daughter’s eighth-grade graduation and the funeral of a friend who died of cancer. But he would be home with his wife in time for their 22nd wedding anniversary. And what about COVID? “I don’t believe it before, the COVID, but now I believe. I tell everybody be careful, this is scary. I’m scared, very scared,” says Castro. By then, everyone in his family had been fully vaccinated. The day Castro left PPMC, about 50 nurses, doctors, physical and occupational therapists, the chaplain, and almost everyone else who was a part of his life at the hospital lined the hallways. They shouted, applauded, and cheered. A patient transporter slowly rolled him in a wheelchair past them and out the door, a black-andwhite-plaid fleece blanket on his lap topped with two red roses, as he fought back the tears. Behind him, his wife carried a dozen colorful mylar balloons. “I can’t express my gratitude, my appreciation, for everybody here,” Chase says in the PPMC video. “The nurses have become friends, or you know, family. They’re closer to us than a lot of people. It’s beyond words how much I appreciate the hospital staff and the doctors who’ve taken such good care of him.” Castro says he doesn’t remember half of what happened to him at PPMC. But he’ll probably never forget how he felt the day he left. Neither will his care team. “Watching him leave, I cried like a baby,” says Tuepker. “When Amanda gave me a hug, that’s when I lost it the most. Then I walked by Alex, and he reached out and gave me a hug. No words were needed. He was so grateful.” Pobanz took up running after watching Castro fight so hard to build strength. “If Alex can walk while on ECMO, I can do a 5K, so I started training.”