October 2021


whole world got to see what happened to those who went first. I had colleagues, I had doctors, administrators and nurses, who took the vaccine because they wanted to protect their families, and I got to see they were okay, and they remained COVID-free. Or, if they got sick, symptoms were mild. So, I felt comfortable making that decision for myself, and I got vaccinated in April 2021. I was about 32 weeks pregnant, and I think the main reason I did that is because I wanted to make sure I could protect my baby. I knew I would not be giving a newborn a vaccine right away. That was off the table. But I found out that it’s true when pregnant women get vaccinated, they pass antibodies on to their babies. Those antibodies are also present in breast milk. So here were two ways that I could get just a simple vaccine and a sore arm, maybe a little bit of fever, but totally worth it to me to make sure my baby is as healthy as possible. I had hoped COVID would be gone by now, but now that the Delta variant is here and we know more variants are coming down the line, I’m so glad I made that decision. Every time I look at my baby who is laughing or smiling or trying to roll over, I think, ‘You can do that because you’re healthy, and you are healthy because I made the decision to get vaccinated.’” Shelly Strayhorn “It has been a whirlwind since March 2020. I have spent many more hours at the hospital planning, developing, revising and implementing procedures to ensure quality care is delivered to our patients, than I have at home with my family. My nephew lives with us, and he was doing remote learning. It was difficult because I would get online to make sure he was doing all his assignments, and I would follow up after working a full day. It was 2:00 a.m. sometimes when I was trying to make sure Jacob was doing okay, and all was well with school. Trying to balance everything was a challenge.” What is the reality of what we are currently facing with COVID-19 in Texarkana? Shelly Strayhorn “The health care facilities are stretched to the max, and the staff is growing weary. It is not just physically demanding, but emotionally demanding as well. Currently, because of the need for inpatient beds, elective, non-emergent cases are evaluated daily to ensure hospital beds and staff are available. We must get our vaccine rates up. Around 90% of all admissions to our hospital are unvaccinated. We are seeing younger patients and children in need of care. Availability of children’s beds is extremely tight. Since they cannot yet be vaccinated, we must take all precautions to keep our children safe.” Dr. Loren Robinson “Nobody anticipated this summer would look worse than last summer. We really thought that COVID-19 would be in a more manageable place. Instead, our numbers are higher than ever in terms of our outpatient visits to clinics and folks getting tested and testing positive. Looking at who is coming to the hospital, our patients are younger than before. Most of them are unvaccinated, and that’s sad because we are seeing young people pass away. We’re seeing people in their 20s, 30s and 40s pass away. And they

shouldn’t have passed away. These are folks who were previously healthy. Interestingly, even though our hospitals are not connected as a health system, we each have the same rate in terms of admitted patients who are vaccinated versus unvaccinated. Only one in ten people who are admitted to our hospitals with COVID-19 are fully vaccinated. Meaning, if you admit ten people into the hospital, nine of those people are not vaccinated. So, if you’re vaccinated, your chance of actually having to be admitted into the hospital is much lower. If you get COVID and you’re vaccinated, you’re more likely to have fewer symptoms and be able to manage that at home and get back to work and back to life as normal, as opposed to being admitted to the hospital and maybe ending up in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) or on a ventilator. I think that’s the thing that is so different this time—we’re seeing so many more young, healthy people getting sick quickly. It has been slower for us to get the help we needed at the hospital in terms of those extra nurses coming from the State. We have those now, and I think that’s helping. It’s helping us open our surgery schedules. But it changes so much day to day, that it is really a challenge and continues to be something we are working on every single day.” Are patients able to remain in local care? Shelly Strayhorn “We have been able to effectively and safely care for patients of all ages in our community, ranging from non-critical to critical. Of course, there have been times we have transferred to a higher level of care or to a long-term care facility. And young children are typically transferred to a children’s hospital.” Dr. Loren Robinson “As the COVID numbers continue to go up, there’s this question of ‘Is the hospital still a safe place for me to receive care?’ And I would say, ‘Yes!’ Both for Wadley and CHRISTUS St. Michael. So much so that some of the smaller hospitals are calling and asking to transfer their patients in. I think one thing that is a blessing about having both hospitals in the area is that if one of us gets very busy and gets full, for whatever reason, the other hospital isn’t as busy or as full at that exact moment. Having that ability and being able to lean on each other, knowing we are just a phone call away, is an invaluable resource. It may seem that I’m pushing the vaccination, but it’s very striking to me when I see the news, that these ICUs are filling up. Specifically, if you look at pediatrics. If something were to happen and a child needed severe ICU or pediatric specialists, we’d want them to go to a pediatric hospital. But when you see that Texas Children’s in Houston is full, Dallas Children’s is full, Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock is full, Vanderbilt’s Pediatric ICU in Nashville is full. Where would our babies go? We are having to look as far away as Chicago and that means there’s a challenge. We want to make sure that by being vaccinated, we can keep people out of the hospital. We can help keep these ICUs empty, so if a child is really sick, we can easily transfer them to one of our centers close by, whether Dallas Children’s Hospital or Arkansas Children’s Hospital. We need for them to open up, and for that to happen, the solution is for people to get vaccinated.”



B U S I N E S S & P O L I T I C S

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